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Dr. Freeman Reflects on His Relationship with Barbara Jordan
Thomas F. Freeman
1975, interview recorded 2012
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  • Highlights
    Hon. Judge George Allen, First African American Mayor Pro Tempore of Dallas and Justice of the Peace in the 1970s, namesake of the Dallas Courthouse
  • Transcript
    Barbara came to me as a 16 year old kid.
    I judged an oratorical contest when she was in high school, they had the Elks annual contest,
    I was one of the judges.
    For that tournament, I ranked Barbara first.
    She did not win first; she won second place.
    And that next year she came to Texas Southern seeking the debate coach,
    and she was on the team for four years.
    The only woman, not the only, the first woman to travel with the team.
    And for her first experiences, all Barbara did was to present the first speech.
    She did not argue.
    She could not think on her feet.
    All she could do is speak.
    And so, I'd take her there to mesmerize the audience,
    and then the fellas would come along and clean up afterward.
    So she did that for three years, and then the fourth year,
    she entered the rebuttal along with the others.
    She and Otis King integrated Forensics in the South at Baylor University.
    Blacks had never attended white tournaments.
    In fact, we couldn't stay in town,
    we had to stay out of town,
    and couldn't stay at the hotel where the tournament was being held.
    But when the tournament was over,
    Barbara had won first place in Oratory,
    and Otis had won first place in Extemporaneous Speaking,
    and from then on, every year that we would go there,
    one of our students would win in Oratory, another would win in Extemp.
    In fact, one year, the second year that Barbara was there,
    Barbara won first place and Sydney Carter won second place in Oratory.
    At that time, they didn't have all of the events that we have now,
    all they had was oratory and extemporaneous speaking,
    now they have everything.
    Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Extemporaneous Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, Reader's Theater--
    they have all of it!
    And our team just came back from the University of Houston
    over this past weekend, you saw the counter, did you see the counter?
    M- No, I didn't.
    TFF- Well on the way out you'll see that our team brought back awards in ten of the eleven events.
    So the tradition is being carried on, even by those who are involved.
    But Barbara set the pace, and many times when I would introduce her on programs,
    I would say, "One of our star debaters,"
    and she would get up and say, "THE star debater!"
    And Barbara would narrate for my brother Paul.
    He's a conductor, a symphony conductor.
    The Czechoslovakia Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Sinfonietta,
    and Barbara would narrate "The Lincoln Portrait."
    And I have had the occasion when I would introduce Barbara.
    Well the last occasion in 19--I don't know, Barbara said,
    "One of the reasons I came to this convention is that
    I just so much like to hear myself being introduced,
    and for Tom Freeman to do it, I could not resist this temptation."
    And she died, I used that statement to preface what I had to say about Barbara.