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Dallas Mourns the Late Eddie Bernice Johnson, a ‘Fierce’ Advocate for Her Hometown

Mourners from all over the state and nation came to Dallas to pay their respects to the late congresswoman. Here's what a few of them had to say.
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Eddie Bernice Johnson, who died on New Years Eve after complications following spinal surgery, left a lasting impression on the city she called home. That legacy includes a Dallas ISD STEM academy in Wilmer that bears her name and the Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station downtown. Dallas ISD

Hundreds came to Fair Park’s Hall of State Monday to pay their respects to the late Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who died at 89 years old on New Year’s Eve. Later that evening, many more mourners traveled to Concord Church for her wake.

Among the mourners were several local, state, and national dignitaries, including U.S. Reps. Jasmine Crockett, Marc Veasey, and James Clyburn; state Sens. Royce West and Nathan Johnson; former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Also in attendance was President Joe Biden, who arrived shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday evening. Once at the church, he chatted with Johnson’s family, greeted members of the Congressional Black Caucus in attendance, and then paused to pay his respects to the woman he said he served with for 30 years. 

“I’ve always been grateful for her friendship and partnership,” he said earlier. 

Biden paused, appeared to say a prayer, and then briefly placed his hands on Johnson’s casket before turning to tell her family goodbye. He left Dallas Love Field shortly after. His day also included a stop at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the site of a mass shooting that killed nine worshipers almost 10 years ago.

Speakers at Monday night’s wake and Tuesday’s funeral carried a similar theme: Johnson was a trailblazer who created a path for other lawmakers and officials, particularly Black officials. 

“Without an Eddie Bernice Johnson, there would be no Vice President Harris. Without Eddie Bernice Johnson, there would be no U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brown Jackson,” said Abundant Life AME Pastor Michael Waters Monday night. 

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries picked up that theme at Johnson’s funeral Tuesday. After referring to Johnson as his “Congressional mother,” he recalled being unsure of where to sit at his first Congressional Black Caucus meeting, and Johnson welcomed him. That encouragement and guidance, Jeffries said, is what made her remarkable. “That is why you see more than 25 members of Congress from all across the country here to celebrate her legacy,” he said.

Among the mourners were U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, much of the Congressional Black Caucus, Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde, and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. Former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Kamala Harris sent recorded remarks that were played during the funeral.

Luci Baines Johnson, the daughter of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, called the congresswoman her “heroine.”

“Everyone needs someone to believe in. Eddie Bernice was my someone,” she said. 

Tuesday night, the downtown skyline will be lit in yellow to commemorate Johnson once more in her hometown—a nod to the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” a city statement said, which is a “symbol of resilience.” A graveside service will follow Wednesday afternoon at Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Her wake and funeral are also available to view online here.

The impact the late congresswoman had on the city and state she called home can be seen in the thousands of projects she helped bring to fruition during her career as a legislator, both in the Texas Legislature and in Washington D.C. Locally, a Dallas ISD STEM academy in Wilmer and Union Station downtown bear her name. 

After her passing on Sunday, many who worked with her expressed what she meant to them. Here is a sampling:

U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett: “Chairwoman Johnson was, as I liked to refer to her, a quiet storm. She prided herself in getting things done to better the lives of the people that she served.”

Dallas City Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold: “I have many great memories working alongside her in southern Dallas, where she made it clear she was there to get things done. She waited for no one to do what she could get done herself – and better! What a fierce woman she was for Dallas!”

Dallas City Councilwoman Paula Blackmon: “When she said, ‘I got this,’ you knew it was good as done.”

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson: “Congresswoman Johnson was a groundbreaking leader for this country and for our state and city, and there really are no words to express my profound sense of grief and loss at the passing of this legendary American.”

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred: “Texas has lost a giant, and I have a lost a friend and mentor.”

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry: “May her enduring legacy serve as an inspiration as we uphold her vision for a stronger, more resilient Texas, and may her memory remain an enduring source of strength and unity for all.”

President Joe Biden: “Throughout her life, and as the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, she was an icon and mentor to generations of public servants, through whom her legacy of resilience and purpose will endure.”

Vice President Kamala Harris: “I had the privilege to serve alongside her in the Congressional Black Caucus and know that so many have benefited from her tireless work, myself included. Her legacy and leadership will be felt for generations to come.”

DART president and CEO Nadine Lee: “She epitomized the best of our elected and appointed leaders at all levels of government. DART was extremely fortunate to have her as our champion in the U.S. House of Representatives during most of the agency’s history.”

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson: “Eddie Bernice Johnson had strong Texas values of integrity, a strong work ethic, and the ability to fight for what was right without ceasing. She was respected by the Presidents of the United States during her tenure in public service.”

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge: “If Eddie Bernice Johnson was on your side, you knew..that your path was clear.”

Author

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.
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