Vernon Jordan, who grew up in the segregated South and became an influential leader in the American civil rights movement, Washington politics, and Wall Street has died at the age of 85.
Jordan grew up in the housing projects of Atlanta and was the only Black person in his class at DePauw University in rural Greencastle, Indiana. He earned a law degree from Howard University and returned to Atlanta to work for a civil rights attorney. He later worked for the NAACP and the United Negro College Fund before becoming the head of the National Urban League in 1971.
Jordan was close to President Jimmy Carter, who reportedly offered him cabinet jobs in the 1970s. Jordan eventually became critical of Carter, saying he had not delivered on his economic promises to Blacks.
In the 1980s Jordan was badly wounded by a white supremacist sniper in Fort Wayne, Indiana, as he exited the car of a white woman who was an Urban League member. Joseph Paul Franklin, a former Ku Klux Klansman, admitted to the ambush but was acquitted.
Jordan’s role as a Washington insider took him all the way to the White House, where he was a close friend, golfing buddy, and advisor to President Bill Clinton. Jordan never held a formal government job, but it was said that no one knew better than Jordan how favors, access, and requests worked in Washington. Clinton called him a “wonderful friend,” and instrumental in desegregating the University of Georgia in 1961 among his accolades.
Vernon Jordan worked well into his 80s and died peacefully “surrounded by loved ones,” his daughter Vickee Jordan said in a statement.