Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr.
August 15, 1935
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
|Died||March 1, 2021 (aged 85)|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Education||DePauw University (BA)|
Howard University (JD)
|Occupation||Attorney, business executive and civil rights activist|
|Spouse(s)||Shirley Yarbrough (died 1985)|
|Children||5 (1 with Yarbrough, 4 by marriage with Ann Cook)|
|Relatives||The Mighty Hannibal (cousin)|
Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. (August 15, 1935 – March 1, 2021) was an American business executive and civil rights activist who worked for various civil rights movement organizations before becoming a close advisor to President Bill Clinton.
Jordan grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated in 1957 from DePauw University. In the early 1960s, he started his civil rights career, most notably being a part of a team of lawyers that desegregated the University of Georgia. He then continued to work for multiple civil rights organizations until the late 1980s. In the early 1990s, he became a close ally and friend of Bill Clinton and he served as part of Clinton's transition team. After Clinton's departure, Jordan began working with multiple corporations and investment banking firms up until his death. During the 2004 election, he worked for John Kerry's campaign.
Early life and education
Vernon Jordan was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to Mary Belle (Griggs) and Vernon E. Jordan Sr. He had a brother, Windsor. He was a cousin of James Shaw, a musician who is professionally billed as The Mighty Hannibal.
Jordan grew up with his family in the segregated societal cosmos of Atlanta during the 1950s. He was an honors graduate of David T. Howard High School. Rejected for a summer internship with an insurance company after his sophomore year in college because of his race, he earned money for college for a few summers by working as a chauffeur to former city mayor Robert Maddox, then a banker. Jordan graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, in 1957. In an oral history interview archived at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, an interview conducted in 1964 with Robert Penn Warren for the book Who Speaks for the Negro?, Jordan described his difficulties at DePauw as the only black student in a class of 400. He earned a Juris Doctor at Howard University School of Law in 1960. He was a member of the Omega Psi Phi and Sigma Pi Phi fraternities.
Legal career and activism
Jordan returned to Atlanta to join the law office of Donald L. Hollowell, a civil rights activist. The firm, including Constance Motley, sued the University of Georgia for racial discrimination in its admission policies.  The suit ended in 1961 with a Federal Court order demanding the admission of two African Americans, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton E. Holmes. Jordan personally escorted Hunter past a group of angry white protesters to the university admissions office.
After leaving private law practice in the early 1960s, Jordan became directly involved in activism in the field, serving as the Georgia field director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. From the NAACP, he moved to the Southern Regional Council and then to the Voter Education Project.
While still with the National Urban League, Jordan in 1981 said of the Ronald Reagan administration:
I do not challenge the conservatism of this administration. I do challenge its failure to exhibit a compassionate conservatism that adapts itself to the realities of a society ridden by class and race distinction.
On May 29, 1980, Jordan was shot and seriously wounded outside the Marriott Inn in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was accompanied by Martha Coleman at the time. Police thought initially that it might have been a domestic incident related to Coleman's life. Then-president Jimmy Carter visited Jordan while he was recovering, an event that became the first story covered by the new network CNN. Joseph Paul Franklin was acquitted in 1982 of charges of attempted murder. However, in 1996, after having been convicted of murder in another case, Franklin admitted to having committed the shooting.
For Mr. Clinton, Mr. Jordan's roles have been manifold: Golfing companion. Smoother of ruffled feathers (he put the president back in touch with Zoë Baird after the withdrawal of her nomination to be attorney general). Consoler in chief (after Mr. Clinton was defeated for re-election as governor in 1980, after the suicide of Vincent W. Foster Jr. in 1993). Conduit to the high and mighty (he took Mr. Clinton in 1991 to the Bilderberg conference in Germany, an exclusive annual retreat for politicians and businessmen). Go-between (he told Mike Espy he had to go as secretary of agriculture, helped win Warren Christopher a larger role as secretary of state and sounded out Gen. Colin L. Powell for a Cabinet job).
In 1998 Jordan helped Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern, find a job after she left the White House, and recommended an attorney. His role was considered controversial given the scandal that the Clinton administration had suffered because of the president's involvement with the intern, and Jordan testified several times before the grand jury convened by independent counsel Kenneth Starr. On October 1, 2003, a United States court of appeals rejected Jordan's claim for reimbursement for legal services related to assisting Clinton in scandals regarding Lewinsky and Paula Jones. Jordan asked the government to pay him $302,719, but he was paid only $1,215.
Later activities and death
From January 2000 on, Jordan was a senior managing director with Lazard Freres & Co. LLC, an investment banking firm. He was also a member of the board of directors of multiple corporations, including American Express, J.C. Penney Corporation, Asbury Automotive Group, and the Dow Jones & Company.
He was a member of the board of directors of Revlon, Sara Lee, Corning, Xerox, and RJR Nabisco during the 1989 leveraged buyout fight between RJR Nabisco CEO F. Ross Johnson and Henry R. Kravis and his company KKR. A close friend of Jordan's was the Xerox tycoon Charles Peter McColough, who persuaded Jordan to join the board of trustees at Xerox. McColough served as a mentor and friend of Jordan's until McColough's death.
In the 2004 presidential campaign, Jordan led debate preparation and negotiation efforts on behalf of John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president. That year he was elected president of The Economic Club of Washington, D.C..
Marriage and family
In 1986 he remarried, to Ann Dibble Jordan and assumed her four children - Antoinette "Toni", Mercer, Janice and Jacqueline. He has nine grandchildren, seven from his second wife's children, Janice, Mercer, and Toni.
|Booknotes interview with Jordan on Vernon Can Read! A Memoir, December 23, 2001, C-SPAN|
- His memoir, Vernon Can Read! (2001), covered his life through the 1980s, and was written with historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed.
- A collection of his public speeches, with commentary, called Make It Plain: Standing Up and Speaking Out (2008)
Jordan also served as the narrator for American composer Joseph Schwantner's New Morning for the World: "Daybreak of Freedom," a collection of quotations from various speeches by Martin Luther King Jr.
Legacy and honors
- Jordan was a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Bilderberg Group.
- 1983, Barnard College awarded Jordan its highest honor, the Barnard Medal of Distinction.
- 2001, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP for lifetime achievement.
- 2001 – his memoir won the Best Nonfiction Book for 2001 from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. In 2002 it won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and a Trailblazer Award from the Metropolitan Black Bar Association.
- Jordan was honored as The New Jewish Home's Eight over Eighty Gala 2017 honoree.
- Howard University School of Law's library was named in his honor after his death in March 2021.
- "Current Biography Yearbook". H.W. Wilson Company. March 2, 1972 – via Google Books.
- Duffy, John. "The Mighty Hannibal". Allmusic. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- "Vernon Jordan, civil rights icon and former Clinton adviser, dies at 85". NBC News. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
- "Vernon Jordan: More than a 'First Friend'". Harbus.org. March 12, 2001.
- "Oral History Interview with Vernon E. Jordan, Jr, March 17, 1964, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries". Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
- "Notable brothers of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Inc". Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Inc.
- "'We Cannot Take A Recess,' Vernon Jordan '57 Tells Sigma Pi Phi Centennial Celebration". depauw.edu. DePauw University. June 30, 2004.
- "Donald Lee Hollowell - A heroic presence in the Civil Rights Movement". gabar.org. State Bar of Georgia.
- "Vernon Jordan, Lawyer Who Helped Integrate UGA, Has Died". flagpole.com. Flagpole. March 2, 2021.
- "Vernon Jordan, civil rights leader and adviser to Bill Clinton, dies aged 85". The Guardian. March 2, 2021.
- An Historical Look At the Impact of the United Negro College Fund and its Member Institutions on American History, UNCF.
- The New York Times, 23 July 1981, p. 17.
- "Vernon Jordan, Civil Rights Activist And Power Broker, Dies At 85". npr.org. National Public Radio. March 2, 2021.
- Moore Hall, Sarah (June 16, 1980). "Martha Coleman, the Shadowy Figure in the Vernon Jordan Case, Has Led a Troubled Life". People Magazine. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
- "CNN First Hour: June 1, 1980". June 11, 2012 – via YouTube.
- Associated Press (April 9, 1996). "Racist Admits Sniper Attack On Rights Chief Vernon Jordan Franklin Was Acquitted In Trial 14 Years Ago But Now Admits It". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved November 20, 2013.
- R. W. Apple, Jr., "THE PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE: THE POWER BROKER; Jordan Trades Stories With Clinton, and Offers Counsel". The New York Times (January 25, 1998).
- "Vernon Jordan, civil rights leader and close ally of Bill Clinton, dies". CNN. March 2, 2021. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
- "Washington: Request For Legal Fees Rejected". The New York Times (October 1, 2003).
- "Extent of Jordan's Help to Ex-Intern Was Unusual". The Washington Post. February 20, 1998.
- Wire, Sarah D. (January 16, 2020). "A look back at how Clinton's impeachment trial unfolded". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2021.
- "Vernon Jordan, civil rights icon and former Clinton adviser, dies at 85". nbcnews.com. NBC News. March 2, 2021.
- "Jordan's 10 Board Positions Worth $1.1 Million". The Washington Post. February 6, 1998.
- Vernon Jordan '57 Named John Kerry's Lead Debate Negotiator & Elected President of Economic Club of Washington, DePauw University News, June 28, 2004
- "A quarter-century of big names in business". The Washington Post. June 3, 2012.
- Iraq Study Group Members Archived January 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, United States Institute of Peace
- "Vernon E. Jordan Jr. to Deliver Syracuse University's 2017 Commencement Address". SU News. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
- "Vernon Jordan draws parallels between current political climate and civil rights era in 2017 commencement speech". The Daily Orange - The Independent Student Newspaper of Syracuse, New York. May 14, 2017. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
- Gangel, Jamie; Merica, Dan; Malveaux, Suzanne; Stracqualursi, Veronica (March 2, 2021). "Vernon Jordan, civil rights leader and close ally of Bill Clinton, dies". CNN. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
- Lewis, Neil A. (March 2, 2021). "Vernon Jordan, Civil Rights Leader and D.C. Power Broker, Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
- "Vickee S. Jordan And B. M. Adams To Marry in June". The New York Times. May 1, 1988. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
- Fromson, Brett D. (February 6, 1998). "Jordan's 10 Board Positions Worth $1.1 Million". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
- "Vernon Jordan on Politics, Obama and Civil Rights". NPR. November 19, 2008.
- Vernon Can Read!. publicaffairsbooks.com. PublicAffairs. June 17, 2009.
- Make It Plain Archived December 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. PublicAffairs Books.
- ''New Morning for the World'', Joseph Schwantner Works List. Schwantner.net.
- Joseph Schwantner Discography. Schwantner.net.
- "Former Steering Committee Members | Bilderberg Meetings" Archived February 2, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Bilderberg Meetings
- Daley, Suzanne (May 1, 1983). "BARNARD AWARD FOR MRS. KIRKPATRICK FOUGHT". New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
- "Spingarn Medals Awarded", Louisville Free Public Library
- Adams, Biba (March 2, 2021). "Vernon Jordan, civil rights leader and ex-Clinton advisor, dead at 85". Yahoo News. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
- "Annette Gordon-Reed '84 to join the Harvard faculty". Law.harvard.edu. April 30, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
- "Barbara Tober to be Honored at 8 Over 80 Gala". April 2, 2017.
Other honorees include designer Iris Apfel, actress, dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, civil rights leader Vernon Jordan, television producer Norman Lear...
- Alonda, Thomas (March 8, 2021). "Howard University Names Law Library in Honor of Civil Rights Activist Vernon Jordan". Howard University. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
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