4 Texas Southern University graduates turned black history trailblazers

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Thursday, March 12, 2020
Black history figures that made TSU history
TSU has been home to numerous figures that made black history.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas Southern University, founded on the backs of strong African American men and women who were hungry for education and for a greater future.

When black students in the segregated south were denied admission to University of Texas in the 1940s, the Texas State University for Negroes was born. The institution, established on March 3, 1947, became not only the eighth historically black college or university in Texas, but also the first state-supported university in the city of Houston.

With the approval of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 1955, the foundation was laid for what we know today as Texas Southern University. From forth its halls are leaders who have and continue to make black history.

Here are just a few of those who came before:

Barbara Jordan (1936-1996)

When the Fifth Ward native couldn't find a path to University of Texas, she became a proud Tiger in 1952. Jordan left her mark at Texas Southern University as a national champion debater, defeating challengers from Brown and Yale universities and tying with a debater from Harvard.

When Jordan graduated magna cum laude, the Delta Sigma Theta pledge had her sights set on Washington. She became not only the first African American woman elected to the Texas Senate, but also the first African American woman from Texas elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2008, TSU paid homage to Jordan by naming the school of Public Affairs after her and another Congressional colleague, Mickey Leland.

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Mickey Leland (1944-1989)

The vocal Houston civil rights leader from Fifth Ward attended Texas Southern University, earning his Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy in 1970.

Leland quickly proved himself adept in door-to-door campaigning, informing Houstonians about their health care options and the "Black Cats," an organization which protested police brutality in the 1970s.

In 1972, Leland was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, then the U.S. House on a platform of ending hunger and protecting human rights.

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Michael Strahan

Born in Houston but raised in Germany, the "Good Morning America" staple returned to Texas for his senior year of high school. Then, he chose Texas Southern University.

As a Tiger, Strahan proved himself on the field, recording 68 tackles with a school-record 19 quarterback sacks and 32 tackles, totaling 142 yards in losses.

Strahan was named First-Team All SWAC and SWAC Player of the year his junior and senior seasons. He was also named Black College Defensive Player of the Year while leading the SWAC in sacks with 14.5. He would finish his career at TSU with 41.5 total sacks.

He's a Super Bowl champion, seven-time Pro-Bowler, four-time First-Team All-Pro, two-time Second-Team All-Pro, two-time NFL Sack Leader, NFL Defensive Player of the year, NFL 2000's All-Decade Team, New York Giants Ring of Honor recipient and is also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Strahan showed that you can come from an HBCU and become one of the best to ever play the game of football.

Yolanda Adams

She has the voice of an angel and an incredible story of tenacity.

The Houston native attended TSU in the early 1980s and went on to become an educator and part-time model. But when Adams decided to pursue a career in music full-time, she pushed and pushed until she broke into the mainstream.

"Mountain High...Valley Low" in 1999 went double platinum and became Adams' first Grammy award-winning album. By the end of the decade, Adams was dubbed the "First Lady of Modern Gospel" as she dropped three more Grammy award-winning albums, including "The Experience" and "The Divas of Gospel."

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Adams has won four Grammys, four Doves, one American Music Award, six NAACP Image Awards, one Soul Train Award, and three BET Awards.

In August 2019, Texas Southern University's radio station KTSU 90.9 FM became the home of the Yolanda Adams Morning Show.