Thursday, April 22, 2021

Vernon Jordan, Civil Rights Leader and Former National Urban League President, Dies at 85

Vernon Jordan
Vernon Jordan attends the 40th Anniversary Gala for “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste” Campaign at The New York Marriott Marquis on March 3, 2011 in New York City.

*Vernon Jordan, the longtime civil rights leader and close adviser to former President Bill Clinton, died Monday evening, according to multiple sources close to the family. He was 85. A cause of death was not immediately released.

The former head of the United Negro College Fund and National Urban League rose to prominence as a civil rights activist with key connections on both sides of the aisle, from Democratic presidents Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama, to Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

His closest political friendship was with Bill and Hillary Clinton, advising the then-Arkansas governor during his 1992 presidential campaign and acting as his outside personal adviser. He remained close to the Clintons for the next decades, endorsing both of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.

Born on August 15, 1935, Jordan graduated from DePauw University in Indiana in 1957, studied law at Howard University and began his career fighting segregation, beginning with a lawsuit against University of Georgia’s integration policy in 1961. He worked as a field director for the NAACP and as a director of the Southern Regional Council for the Voter Education Project before he became president of the National Urban League.

“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,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

On April 9, 2012, Vernon Jordan was interviewed for a “Living Self-Portrait” at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution by Marc Pachter, former NPG director.

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