Civil Rights Leader Vernon Jordan Dies at 85

Civil rights leader and former Clinton advisor Vernon Jordan passed away on Monday evening at his home. He was 85. His passing was confirmed to CNN by his niece, Ann Walker, and no cause of death has been released as of now. Walker shared that Jordan enjoyed his favorite dessert (chocolate chip ice cream) before going to bed on his last evening. His daughter, Vickee Jordan, said today that her father “passed away peacefully last evening surrounded by loved ones.”

Born in Atlanta in 1935, Jordan was the only Black student in his graduating class from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. He also attended Howard University School of Law in D.C. Jordan, who would go on to become a civil rights icon, began fighting when he joined two Black students in a lawsuit against University of Georgia’s integration policy in 1961, accompanying “the two students to the UGA admissions office that year through an angry mob of White students.” 

Jordan went on to be a director of the Southern Regional Council for the Voter Education Project as well as a field director for the NAACP. He then served as president of the National Urban League from 1971-1981, and, in 1976, was the first to conduct the State of Black America report. Under his leadership, the League was able to expand its budget and add new issues into their scope, including voter registration drives and “conflict resolution between Black people and law enforcement.” They also added 17 new chapters. This high profile position thrust him into the spotlight and he was the target of an assassination attempt in 1980. A known white supremacist who had committed multiple fatal hate crimes later admitted to shooting him. Jordan fortunately recovered and underwent five surgeries. Jordan left the League in 1980 in order to practice law full time. 

Jordan was a close friend of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. He met Bill in Arkansas while he was serving as president of the Urban League and Bill was serving as Arkansas attorney general. Jordan advised Bill throughout his 1992 presidential campaign and served as co-chair to his transition team, becoming the first Black person to perform the role. He remained friends with the couple for decades and endorsed both of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. 

Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, praised Jordan in a statement released today, saying, “Today, the world lost an influential figure in the fight for civil rights and American politics, Vernon Jordan. An icon to the world and a lifelong friend to the NAACP, his contribution to moving our society toward justice is unparalleled. In 2001, Jordan received the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for a lifetime of social justice activism. His exemplary life will shine as a guiding light for all that seek truth and justice for all people.” Jordan is survived by his daughter Vickee and his wife Ann. 


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