DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The end of an era in Dallas politics is approaching, and to mark the occasion, a ceremony to unveil the official portrait of longtime Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson.
The Democrat is retiring at the end of the year after nearly 30 years representing the 30th Congressional District.
While most members of Congress don't receive official portraits, committee chairs do.
In January 2019, Johnson became the first African-American and woman to serve as chair of the House Science, Safety, and Technology Committee.
During the event Thursday afternoon on Capitol Hill, she also received a plaque that President Joe Biden sent of the CHIPS and Sciences Act she helped pass to boost semiconductor chip production in the U.S.
Johnson said former President Bill Clinton couldn't attend, but had called to congratulate her Wednesday.
Surrounded by members of Congress, family, friends, and other supporters, Johnson said, "I cannot tell you what this day has been to me."
Dignitaries described her as a trailblazer, and a quiet, yet powerful member of Congress, who championed STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) for girls and for minority students.
Among those praising her, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "I love bragging about Eddie Bernice because she has been so devoted to science, to education for science, STEM, for all of that."
North Texas business leader Ross Perot Jr., who donated the most money for the portrait, told Johnson, "You've made this nation better. You've made our state better, and you certainly made Dallas-Fort Worth a stronger region."
In an interview earlier Thursday, Johnson told CBS 11 the message she hopes the ceremony sends.
"It really does mean a lot, and hopefully it means a lot more to young girls," she said. "Science, research, STEM education is still the forefront of our future in this nation and so I hope it will impact some young people."
It was no accident her two great-granddaughters unveiled her portrait.
Among her proudest accomplishments, helping the University of Texas at Arlington and University of Texas at Dallas to become Tier One Research facilities.
Johnson also helped pass the law to end the flight restrictions at Dallas Love Field, known as the Wright Amendment, and a law to move a flood control area in Arlington to make room for AT&T Stadium.
"I am proud of my record," she said. "I am proud of the things I've been able to help our entire area and our entire state achieve."
Helen Giddings, who served as a State Representative from Dallas County for 26 years, said part of Johnson's legacy includes inspiring women to run for office.
"Eddie Bernice has blazed a trail," Giddings said. "What she has done says to the rest of us, yes, we can do that. Absolutely she inspired me because she did it and I could see her, and I felt like I could do it as well. She worked extremely hard; I don't know if there were many people who worked harder than she did."
Johnson said, "Your gender has nothing to do with your achievements and your interest. If you put your mind to it and give it some time, it's achievable, and when you achieve it, people benefit."
Johnson became the first nurse elected not only to Congress, but also the Texas House in 1972 and the Texas Senate in 1986.
After decades of public service, Johnson faces another challenge: retirement. "It is emotional. I don't know what I'm facing. I've never retired before."
Johnson vowed to still keep busy and continue helping the community.
At 86 years old, she joked she's way past retirement age. "It hasn't really hit me yet, but it will."
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