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Helen Giddings (born April 21, 1945) is an African American community leader, entrepreneur, and a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, a position that she has held since 1993 from her native Dallas County, Texas.
Giddings sits on the House committees of Appropriations, Calendars, and State Affairs, of which she is the vice chairman. She previously served on the House Select Committee on Public Education, the House Select Committee on Contested Elections, and the House Committee on Financial Institutions.
Giddings attended the University of Texas at Arlington. She is the founder and president of Multiplex, Inc., and describes herself as a strong voice for small business. She is a former board chairman of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce. In the 1980s, as Vice-Chair of the Dallas Transit Board, her mediation skills were employed to end a bus driver strike. She has previously served on both the State Bar Grievance Committee and the Dallas County Grand Jury.
A passionate advocate for education, she has focused much of her time and energy on providing equal educational opportunities for children. In 1997, she authored the legislation establishing the "Read to Succeed Program" which included then Governor George W. Bush's reading initiative. The program enables Texas drivers' to order a special license plate, and the proceeds provide financial support to the Texas school library of the driver's choice. The "Read to Succeed" license plate is the first Texas license plate designed by a child. Furthermore, Giddings authored legislation that prohibits five-year-olds being placed in alternative education. In 1995, Giddings authored legislation to prohibit alcohol-related businesses near schools.
She successfully authored legislation on dyslexia and other learning disabilities as well as programs which address adult education. In higher education, she has led efforts to eliminate geographic and ethnic disparities in funding. Her endeavors have led to more equitable funding for institutions of higher learning in the Metroplex. In order to provide equal opportunities for minorities and rural students, in 1997 Giddings joint authored the Top 10% rule. In recognition of her dedication to education, the Concerned DeSoto Citizens established a scholarship in her honor. Likewise, Pearl C. Anderson School in Dallas, Texas named their library "The Helen Giddings Media Center."
During the 79th Legislature as the Business and Industry chair, she joint authored legislation creating the new Worker's Compensation system as well as authoring five bills focusing on Identity Theft Prevention, Punishment of Criminals, and Help for Victims of Identity Theft. In 2003, Giddings authored the 900-page Business Organization Code.
With a profound interest in the arts, Helen has served on the boards of the African American Museum, Dallas Symphony Board, Dallas Summer Musicals and the Dallas Theater Center. Her contributions to the community and the arts lead to the African American Museum naming a room in her honor.
Having served on the Dallas City Planning Commission, she understands the need to create safer neighborhoods which led her to author legislation on code enforcement, as well as legislation encouraging the building of affordable housing, which permits the transfer of properties (acquired through delinquent taxes) to builders of affordable housing. As a proponent for justice, Giddings authored legislation to create an unsolved crimes unit within the Texas Rangers agency.
In 2001, Rep. Giddings created and passed groundbreaking legislation which requires that every child in Texas receive a course in CPR once in their high school career. The Texas Affiliate of the American Heart Association awarded her the "Heart of Honor" for her work and pledged $1.5 million in materials and funding toward the measure.
Highly respected by her colleagues, Giddings has served as President of the bi-partisan 1600 member, National Foundation of Women Legislators. She is the first woman of color and the first Texan to be elected to this prestigious position in the group's sixty-four year history. Currently, Giddings is an active member of the Women's Legislative Network of the National Conference of State Legislators. Rep. Giddings was named to the Texas Association of Realtors 2001 Legislative Honor Roll, and by the Dallas Morning News as a "Rising Star" of the Texas Legislature.
Helen has been a vocal and active participant in the reaffirmation and revitalization of South Africa. She has worked to improve trade and cultural relations between South Africa and the United States. During her many trips to South Africa, she has received awards and recognition from former President Nelson Mandela and served on the Texas Host Committee for the visit of President, Thabo Mbeki. As a tribute to the outstanding work that Helen has done in South Africa, Prairie View A&M University has established the Helen Giddings Scholarships for Exemplary Students from South Africa, which are Presidential level scholarships.
Her service has earned many awards and special recognition including; National Association of Historically Black College Alumni Award, Maura Award, the Heart Award from the American Heart Association and an honorary doctorate from Paul Quinn College.
She has been interviewed on local and national radio and television shows, and featured in the Dallas News High Profile, American Way Magazine, Essence, and Black Enterprise. In 2001, Ebony Magazine honored Giddings as one of the Top 100 plus Most Influential African Americans.
In 2003, Texas Democrats from the state House and Senate made national headlines when they travelled across the state border to Oklahoma and New Mexico, respectively, en masse to deny a quorum for voting on a redistricting plan. The State of Texas ordered a political police dragnet across the Federal Interstate Highways of Texas in an attempt to stop Democratic legislators from reaching sanctuary in another state or inside of Texas on property solely operated by the US Federal Government like Big Bend National Park on the Rio Grande. Big Bend National Park agreed to give sanctuary to legislators if they could get to the park. But the Federal Highway Administration repeatedly refused safe passage, and offered to cooperate with the Texas Rangers in arresting the legislators on the Federal Interstate Highways of Texas. Rep. Helen Giddings was captured and driven to the capitol against her will.
In 2013, Giddings voted against two key measures to restrict abortion. One halts the practice after twenty weeks of gestation. The other requires stricter health, safety, and sanitary regulations in abortion facilities. She did not vote on some dozen other issues brought before the House in 2013.
Giddings was re-nominated in the Democratic primary held on March 4, 2014. She polled 9,014 votes (87.7 percent) to her challenger, Genevieve Gregory's, 1,264 votes (12.3 percent).
|Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 109 (DeSoto)
1996 – present