NationalObituaryStacy M. Brown

Vernon Jordan, Civil Rights Icon and Clinton Adviser, Dies at 85

Vernon Jordan, the former National Urban League president and civil rights leader, has died at 85.

His daughter, Vickee Jordan Adams, confirmed his death on Tuesday.

“My father passed away last night at around 10 p.m. surrounded by loved ones, his wife and daughter, by his side,” Adams noted in a statement.

A lawyer and Washington power broker, Jordan was born in Atlanta on Aug. 15, 1935.

He attended the DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he was the only African-American student in his class.

According to an online biography posted by The HistoryMakers, Jordan participated in the student senate at DePauw and won statewide honors in speaking competitions.

He played basketball and graduated in 1957.

In 1960, he earned a J.D. from the Howard University School of Law. Jordan returned to Atlanta, starting his legal career working with the civil rights movement.

RELATED: Howard University President Reflects on Life of Vernon Jordan Jr.

“In 1961, he helped organize the integration of the University of Georgia and personally escorted student Charlayne Hunter through a hostile white crowd,” The HistoryMakers noted.

They continued:

“Over the next 10 years, Jordan held various positions as a civil rights advocate. He served as the Georgia field secretary for the NAACP, director of the Voter Education Project for the Southern Regional Council, head of the United Negro College Fund and as a delegate to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s White House Conference on Civil Rights.”

In 1971, Jordan was appointed president and CEO of the National Urban League, spearheading the organization’s growth.

On May 29, 1980, a white supremacist attempted to kill Jordan.

After a successful recovery, in 1981, Jordan resigned from the National Urban League to work as legal counsel with the Washington, D.C. office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, and Feld.

His active practice includes corporate, legislative, and international clients, researchers at the HistoryMakers noted.

Jordan’s close friend has long been former President Bill Clinton and during Clinton’s presidency, Jordan became one of Washington’s most influential power brokers, the researchers noted.

He also served as a partner in the investment firm of Lazard Frere & Company in New York.

In 2001, Jordan published his autobiography, “Vernon Can Read!” and authored a weekly newspaper column syndicated to more than 300 newspapers while also serving as a frequent television guest and commentator.

“Mourning the passage of my friend, the extraordinary Vernon Jordan,” Stacey Abrams posted on Twitter. “He battled the demons of voter suppression and racial degradation, winning more than he lost. He brought others with him. And left a map so more could find their way. Love to his family. Travel on with God’s grace.”

Editor’s Note: In December, we posted a feature story on Vernon Jordan which chronicled his life as shared in a documentary, “Vernon Jordan: Make It Plain,” and illustrated his rise from poverty, his commitment to justice and his unflinching focus on achieving his goals. We recommend this story, written by WI Contributing Writer Brenda C. Siler, for your review.

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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