Vernon Jordan, a trailblazing and influential civil rights leader in the fields of law, business and Washington politics, died Monday, according to reports. Jordan was 85 years old. His cause of death was not immediately reported.
His daughter confirmed his death to the New York Times.
Jordan, who as a young man was named as president of the National Urban League, was a proud graduate of the Howard University School of Law before going on to achieve major success that included a close friendship with Bill Clinton.
From Jordan’s biography on Brittanica.com:
“Jordan joined the effort to desegregate colleges and universities and helped lead black student Charlayne Hunter through a group of whites protesting the University of Georgia’s integration policy in 1961. He was named field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Georgia (1961–63) and then became director of the Southern Regional Council for the Voter Education Project (1964–68). By 1966 Jordan’s political influence was evident through his participation in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s civil rights conference. As director of the United Negro College Fund in 1970, he raised $10 million in contributions that benefited African American institutions. While serving as president of the National Urban League (1972–81), Jordan joined corporate boards such as American Express and Dow Jones, thereby using business connections to press the case for minority hiring and advancement.”
The National Urban League sent an email of condolences to NewOne mourning Jordan’s death.
“The nation has lost one of its greatest champions of racial and economic justice. He was a transformational leader who brought the movement into a new era. He was a personal mentor and dear friend. His passing leaves a tremendous void that can never be filled,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said in a statement.
Morial added later:
“The National Urban League would not be where it is today without Vernon Jordan. We have lost more than a leader; we have lost a brother. We send our prayers to his wife Ann, his daughter Vikee, and his entire family and extended family as we rededicate our commitment to his vision of justice and equality.”
Damon Hewitt, acting president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in an email to NewsOne that his organization will keep fighting for the ideals that Jordan upheld in life.
“Vernon Jordan was a giant in the civil rights community and in our nation overall. From his work fighting segregation in Georgia and working at the NAACP, to leading the National Urban League and advising world leaders, he devoted his life and career to pushing our country to live up to its most important promises,” Hewitt said in a statement. “He had a rare understanding of politics, people, and power, and he used his insights to make connections once thought impossible and to make a better way for everyone.”
This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.