Dr. Lois Jordan stands with a microphone in the Metro Council Chamber as she relives the moment that contributed to her moniker, Lady Jordan. Photo by Clint Confehr

By Clint Confehr

HENDERSONVILLE, TN — Dr. Lois Jordan, the first black woman elected to Nashville’s City Council, has a few observations about politics.

First elected in 1971, Jordan speaks now as a political strategist; a political tactician since that race for the District 17 seat she won by campaigning door to door.

Her district was divided by railroad tracks, literally and symbolically for a divided culture. To get white votes, she drove her convertible, top down, through those neighborhoods. Then, she walked her dog, Banner, named after Nashville’s now-defunct conservative newspaper, to attract attention before campaigning door to door.

A man on his front porch next to a spittoon, which he used as she sought his vote, told her, “‘I don’t vote for N-words.’” Jordan quotes him with the epithet. She replied, “Well, we have something in common… I don’t either,” and asked him to define the epithet. He couldn’t. It broke the ice. They talked and she gave him a title, team leader for her campaign.

She went prepared to council meetings and listened but councilmen spoke over her. Fed up, she stood up, announcing: “‘There’s a lady standing on the floor. I listen to you. You should listen to me.’ … They referred to me as Lady Jordan because I always wore pearls and was elegantly dressed.”

Still wearing pearls, Jordan helps “worthy candidates,” including the Rev. Howard Jones for state Senate “because he’s an educator and knows what children need,” and what he says from the pulpit on Sunday is consistent with what he does the rest of the week.

“He will not be a … career politician … He wants to use his skills to serve his constituents. He was brought-up in federal housing. He knows what it’s like to be without and to live around people in need. He’s a perfect example for today’s youth to show if you really want to make something of yourself, you can.” He’s young enough for young people to identify with him.

Mayor David Briley is who she wants leading City Hall now because the next budget needs someone familiar with the system.

Election Day, voters can trash her prediction for a runoff between Briley and Dr. Carole Swain, a candidate for change. August 2019 is a better time for her. If Swain runs next year, Jordan would support her.

“There’s nothing wrong with cleaning out the swamp. Often times the swamp needs cleaning.”

Jordan has a “personal interest” in the U.S. Senate race. She’s known Congressman Marsha Blackburn and her family since Jordan was the only woman on the council. “That resulted in people wanting to know me. I’m not a turn coat. I know Gov. Bredesen (Blackburn’s presumed November opponent) but I don’t know him like I know her.”

Offering her “philosophy of life,” Jordan says she won’t let race or sex “prevent me from being successful. Success is knowing who you are and knowing where you’re going and how you plan to get there. Some people think success is how much money you make, it’s not. It’s how you treat other people and how they accept you.”

Jordan spoke at her home in Hendersonville.

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...