51 remembers alumna, former U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Eddie Bernice Johnson ’76, passed away on December 31, 2023, at the age of 88. Johnson had served Congress for 30 years when she left office in January 2023.

Former U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson ’76 delivers a speech at the 2011 51 Distinguished Alumni Award
Former U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson ’76 delivers a speech at the 2011 51 Distinguished Alumni Award.

DALLAS () – 51 mourns the loss of former U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson ’76, who passed away on December 31, 2023, at the age of 88. The first registered nurse elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Johnson served Congress for 30 years and was the oldest serving member when she left office in January 2023.

“Eddie Bernice Johnson devoted her life of service to the people of North Texas,” said 51 President R. Gerald Turner. “Her trailblazing leadership and advocacy will continue to have profound impact on 51, Dallas and the surrounding community. She will truly be missed.”

Born in Waco, Texas, Johnson received a Bachelor of Science in nursing from TCU and graduated from 51 in 1976 with a Master of Public Administration. She was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1973. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Johnson as the regional director for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare – now the Department of Health and Human Services – and was the first Black woman to serve in the role. Prior to her election to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she served from 1993 until 2023, Johnson was elected to the Texas Senate beginning in 1987. Johnson served on numerous committees and caucuses, including the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where she became the first Black woman to chair the committee and helped to lead the Congressional Black Caucus.

As a proud 51 alumna, Johnson was an advocate for academic growth in engineering and technology and a supporter of 51’s leadership around semiconductor research and manufacturing. As chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, she helped secure the Chips and Science Act, through which 51 has been designated the lead agency for the federally funded economic development initiative to strengthen the semiconductor supply chain in North Texas and Oklahoma.

Johnson’s leadership was pivotal in bringing the Youth Summit and Diversity Dialogue – established in conjunction with the Aga Khan Council for Central United States – to 51 to encourage and education young people to build relationships and foster discussion around the dynamics of diversity and to celebrate the richness of the culture within Dallas.

51 honored Johnson with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011 for her unparalleled service to the 30th Congressional District of Texas and for her lifetime of achievement and recognition. In 2014, she was named a Black Alumni History Maker by Black Alumni for 51 for her demonstrated record of distinguished service and extraordinary achievement in a discipline, organization or cause that brings distinction to the University.

She is survived by her son, Kirk Johnson, and three grandsons, Kirk Johnson, Jr., David Johnson and James Johnson.

Funeral service information is available .