Barbara Jordan was born in 1936 in Houston, Texas, United States, to parents with strong convictions about the behavior of their three daughters. Jordan's father, a Baptist preacher, was probably the most important influence in her life. He valued God, the Bible, his family, good music, and the spoken and written word. Although the Jordans were poor, their lot was not very different from that of other African Americans in the Houston area. Jordan's parents made every effort to provide adequately for her and her sisters and to shield them from the detrimental effects of the racially segregated society in which they lived by regularly exposing them to the most positive aspects of their own African American community.
Barbara Jordan was the youngest of 3 children.
It was Jordan's parents who made contact with the white world when it was necessary. All of the Jordan girls played musical instruments, and two of them decided that they wanted to become music teachers.
At first Jordan thought about being a pharmacist, but as she researched that profession, she noted that she had never heard of a famous pharmacist and, consequently, she decided to abandon that field. When a African American female lawyer from Chicago, Edith Sampson (who later became a judge), visited Jordan's high school on "career day, " Jordan was so impressed with her that she made a definite decision about her life work. That evening she announced to her parents that she wanted to be a lawyer. Jordan's mother was reluctant about her daughter's choice-after all, African American women lawyers were a rarity in the South-but her father supported her, reassuring her that she could excel in any endeavor. Money was certainly an important consideration when Jordan was choosing a college.