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Sheila Jackson-Lee

Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1995
Preceded by Craig Washington
Member of the Houston City Council from the At-large #4 District
In office
January 2, 1990 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Anthony Hall
Succeeded by John Peavy
Personal details
Born (1950-01-12) January 12, 1950 (age 64)
Queens, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Dr. Elwyn C. Lee
Children 2
Residence Houston, Texas
Alma mater Yale University
University of Virginia Law School
Profession Attorney, Judge
Religion Seventh-day Adventist

Sheila Jackson Lee (born January 12, 1950) is the U.S. Representative for Texas's 18th congressional district, serving since 1995. The district includes most of inner-city Houston. She is a member of the Democratic Party.

Early life and education

Jackson Lee graduated from Jamaica High School in Queens. She earned a B.A. in political science from Yale University in 1972, followed by a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1975.[1] She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.[2]

Early political career

Jackson Lee made three unsuccessful attempts at local judgeships before becoming a municipal judge from 1987 to 1990.[3] Jackson Lee, along with Sylvia Garcia, was 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.[3] While on the city council, Jackson Lee helped pass a safety ordinance that required parents to keep their guns away from children.[4] She also worked for expanded summer hours at city parks and recreation centers as a way to combat gang violence.[5]

U.S. House of Representatives



In 1994, Jackson Lee ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, challenging four-term incumbent U.S. Congressman Craig Washington of the Houston-based Texas' 18th congressional district in the Democratic primary.[3] Washington had come under fire for opposing several projects that would have benefited the Houston area.[6] Jackson Lee defeated Washington 63%-37%.[7] The victory was tantamount to election in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. In the general election, she defeated Republican nominee Jerry Burley 73%-24%.[8]


During this time period, Jackson Lee was never challenged in the Democratic primary. In addition, she won re-election with at least 76% of the vote.[9]


For the first time in her congressional career, Jackson Lee was challenged in the Democratic primary; her opponents were Houston City Councilmember Jarvis Johnson and Sean Roberts. She defeated them 67%-28%-5%.[10]

It was reported that in October 2010 Jackson Lee was “asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether tea party groups are intimidating black and Hispanic voters in her district.” She requested that Attorney General Eric Holder send poll monitors to make sure that a local group wasn't stopping people from voting.[11]

She won the general election with 70% of the vote, the lowest winning percentage of her career.[12]


In 2012, Jackson Lee was not challenged in the Democratic primary and won the general election with 75% of the vote. [13]


Prior to the 110th Congress, Jackson Lee served on the House Science Committee and on the Subcommittee that oversees space policy and NASA. She is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus,[14] and a CBC whip.[6]

In 2000, she favored permanently normalizing trade status for China, arguing that it would aid both human rights and Houston's economy.[15]

Jackson Lee traveled to the 2001 World Conference against Racism in South Africa, and has backed sanctions against Sudan.[16] On April 28, 2006, Jackson Lee, along with four other members of Congress and six other activists, was arrested for disorderly conduct in front of Sudan's embassy in Washington. They were protesting the role of Sudan's government in ethnic cleansing in Darfur.[17]

Jackson Lee is active on immigration issues.[18] She has proposed increasing border security and increasing opportunities for legalization among those living in the United States. She has opposed a guest worker program, saying that the idea of guest: "connotate[s] `invite, come,' and, at the same time, it misleads because you ask people to come for a temporary job of three to six years and they have to leave if they don't have another job and I would think that they would not."[19]

Jackson Lee has urged better relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, which she describes as a friendly nation. She said the U.S. should reconsider its ban on selling F-16 fighter jets and spare parts to that country. The U.S. State Department bans such sales due to "lack of support" for counter-terrorist operations and Venezuela's relations with Iran and Cuba.[20][21]

In July 2010 Jackson Lee said: "Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working. We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace. I would look for a better human rights record for North Vietnam, but they are living side by side.”[22] It was noted that Vietnam had not been split for four decades.[23][24]

Speaking in July 2010 at the NAACP national convention, Jackson Lee compared the Tea Party to the KKK.[25]

Jackson Lee said in January 2011 that repealing the health care law would be in violation of the Constitution. She argued that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is constitutional under the Commerce Clause, and that repealing it would violate both the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments.[26] [27] [28]

At a Homeland Security Committee hearing on radical Muslims in the US, held in March 2011, Jackson Lee said that Peter King's hearings were helping al-Qaeda and “going the same route as Arizona.” She complained that the hearings were scaring Muslim Americans and called them “an outrage.”[29]

She supports building a high-speed rail system in Texas.[30]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Jackson Lee is or has been a member of a number of caucuses, including: the 9-11 Commission Caucus, the Building a Better America Caucus (BABAC), the Congressional Caucus on Global Road Safety, and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. Task forces in which she has participated include Children and Families, Homeland Security, Immigration, and Katrina. She has been the co-chair of the Congressional Algeria Caucus, the Congressional Pakistan Caucus, the Democratic Outreach Task Force, and the US-Afghan Caucus. Jackson Lee has also been a member of the House Democratic Steering Committee.

Personal life

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 of the University of Houston System and the University of Houston, respectively.[1]


Alison Cook, Alison Cook looks back at 1997: The Year That Bit, Houston Press, May 2, 2007.

External links

Houston portal
Biography portal
Government of the United States portal
Politics portal
African American portal
  • Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee official U.S. House site
  • Sheila Jackson Lee for U.S. Congress
  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Ballotpedia
  • NNDB
  • Project Vote Smart
  • GovTrack
  • OpenCongress
  • Roll Call
  • Federal Election Commission
  • The Washington Post
  • On the Issues
  • The Library of Congress
  • The Washington Post
  • WorldCat catalog)
  • C-SPAN programs
  • Internet Movie Database
  • The Washington Post
  • Sheila Jackson Lee, Accountable Corporations The Nation, January 19, 2006
  • Sheila Jackson Lee, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee: Immigration is the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time Democracy Now, April 4, 2006
  • Tim Fleck, What's Driving Miss Sheila? Houston Press, February 20, 2007
Preceded by
Craig Washington
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Doc Hastings
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Walter B. Jones
R-North Carolina
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