Fact Check: How Long Has It Been Since More Than One Black State Senator Served On The Same Committee?

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Brandon Mulder, PolitiFact/Austin American-Statesman; radio story produced by Alexandra HartDecember 16, 2020 12:35 pm, , , ,

From PolitiFact Texas:

Examining Black History Of The Texas Senate

The monuments and paintings of Confederate leaders that adorn the Texas Capitol became a subject of debate last year as Senate Republicans approved a bill that would have made it harder to remove or relocate historic monuments, including those memorializing Confederate figures.

Those discussions resumed last month during a hearing of a Senate committee empaneled by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick charged with reviewing the history of the Confederate portraits in the Senate chamber. That committee, the Senate Chamber Review Committee, is composed of five Republicans and three Democrats, including the only two Black members of the Senate — Sens. Royce West, D-Dallas, and Borris Miles, D-Houston.

As the hearing got underway, West took a moment to recognize what he believed was a milestone.

“I just want to make sure that I make a note that this is the first time in history, during my tenure as senator for the past 27 years, that two African Americans have ever served on the same committee,” West said. “I personally want to thank the lieutenant governor for making that happen, even though it is dealing with the issue of Confederate monuments.”

“I’m sure glad you noted that,” responded Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who chairs the committee. “Everything we do here is a part of history, and when something like that happens, we need to drive a stake in the ground and note it.”

Black members first served in the Texas Senate during Reconstruction, when recently freed slaves won the right to vote and run for political office. During this era, three Black senators were elected to the Texas Senate between 1869 and 1882 — George Ruby, Matt Gaines and Walter Burton, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

It wasn’t until Barbara Jordan’s election in 1966 that a Black member returned to the Senate. Jordan served for six years until she entered Congress in 1972.

PolitiFact rates this claim as False.

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