Portal:Houston/Selected biography/July 2009

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Sheila Jackson-Lee.jpg

Sheila Jackson-Lee (born January 12, 1950 in Queens, New York), an American politician, has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1995. She represents Texas's 18th congressional district, which was once represented by her role model, former congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

Jackson-Lee graduated from Jamaica High School in Queens, New York. She went on to earn a B.A. in political science from Yale University in 1972, followed by a J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975. Jackson-Lee moved to Houston after her husband, Dr. Elwyn C. Lee, took a job at the University of Houston. Her husband now holds a dual position of Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Houston System and the University of Houston, respectively.

Jackson-Lee made three unsuccessful attempts at local judgeships before becoming a municipal judge from 1987 to 1990. Jackson-Lee, along with Sylvia Garcia, were appointed by then mayor of Houston Kathy Whitmire. In 1989 she won the at-large position for a seat on the Houston City Council, serving until 1994. While on the city council, Jackson-Lee helped push through a gun safety ordinance that punished parents who did not keep their guns away from children. She also worked for expanded summer hours at city parks and recreation centers as a way to combat gang violence.

In 1994, Jackson-Lee (serving her third term as a member of the Houston City Council) defeated incumbent Congressman Craig Washington in the Democratic primary for the 18th Congressional District of Texas; a victory that assured her the seat itself, as the district is overwhelmingly Democratic.