Vernon Jordan, civil rights leader and DC power broker, dies at 85

Vernon E., a civil rights leader and Washington power broker. Jordan Jr., who was looking for a private lawyer among the topmost government and corporate entities, died at his home in Washington on Monday. He was 85.

His death was confirmed in a statement by his daughter Vicky Jordan. He did not give a reason.

Raised in Atlanta during a period of isolation, Mr. Jordan received the world’s first inkling of power and influence, largely denying black Americans while waiting tables at one of the city’s private clubs where his mother Had dinner, and as a driver for a wealthy white banker, who was shocked to find that tall black youth at the wheel could read.

He was a civil rights leader and then Clark M. Clifford, Robert S. Strauss and Lloyd M. In the mold of previous capital insiders such as Cutler, he went on to a highly successful career as a high-level Washington lawyer.

Along the way he cultivated one of the younger black leaders, inviting him to monthly one-on-one lunches, about his unrivaled influence on what to wear, what to read, and to promote his career in business, politics. Advising on everything to use. And the non-profit world.

“When Vernon Jordan came into your life, he embraced you completely,” Darren Walker, a close friend and president of the Ford Foundation. “It was a man who saw it as his job to advance the next generation of African Americans in this country.”

Mr. Jordan began his civil rights career in 1960 after graduating from Howard University School of Law. He was in his 30s, when he was elected head of the National Urban League, an avatar of the Black Establishment, and held that position while he was alive. Assassination attempt in 1980.

Leading the organization, he began mentoring and socializing with prominent political personalities, often inviting them to join Martha’s Vineyard, where he had a summer home and a long-standing seasonal community of the rich and powerful. Members were often islands from the time.

As his network of connections grew, he moved away from the league to become a highly-paid lawyer-lobbyist at Aki Gump, one of Washington’s most politically engaged law firms.

His closest relationship was with Bill Clinton, whom he had befriended before Mr. Clinton was elected president in 1992. Mr. Jordan was named co-chairman of the Clinton transition effort and became a presidential confidant and golf partner.

He turned down Mr. Clinton’s offer as attorney general, but remained in the president’s class, recruiting him to handle sensitive issues for the White House, in one case General Colin L. Told Powell to join the administration as Secretary of State. (General Powell elected to continue as President of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while holding the post of Mr. Clinton’s predecessor, George H.W. Bush.)

But Mr. Clinton’s reliance on him also embittered Mr. Jordan in the scandal that arose from the president’s sexual relationship, which White House trainee Monica S. Lewinsky was with him, which led to Mr. Clinton’s impeachment. At the President’s behest, he tried to find Ms. Lewinsky a job in Manhattan and was investigated by the Special Prosecutor in the case to assist Mr. Clinton to investigate the case. Mr. Jordan testified five times before the grand jury and before the House impeachment committee, but no action was taken against him.

Avoiding the scandal, Mr. Jordan served on more than a dozen corporate and non-profit boards. And he used his decades of immaculate influence to create the next generation of black executives, who were instrumental in the diversification of America’s corporate leadership over the past 20 years.

He said, “I will see that these people will give jobs to the children of their friends.” In FY 2018, “So I learned this process and I gave my people a job.”

Vernon Eileen Jordan Jr. was born on August 15, 1935 in Atlanta. He wrote that he admired Vernon Sr., a postal worker, but had no doubt that the catalyst that was his life’s achievement: his enterprising mother, Mary Belle Jordan. She was the “Architect, General Contractor and Brocare” for the entire project.

Running her own catering business, Ms. Jordan oversees the monthly dinner at the exclusive Lawyers Club in Atlanta from 1948 to 1960, and young Vernon often waits at the table. He paid full attention to the speakers and recalled being impressed by the attorneys’ confidence in attendance – a way he would later imitate as a Washington insider, always a commanding, hyper-self-sufficient 6-foot-4 presence. , Whether in the boardroom or at the Georgetown dinner parties.

After graduating from an all-black Atlanta high school, he had the opportunity to attend the historic Black Howard University in Washington, at his mother’s insistence, at DePauw University, an almost entirely white school in Indiana. He later moved to Howard’s law school in the late 1950s, when the school served as an informal headquarters for a cadre of lawyers who were the architects of the legal strategy of the civil rights movement. He wrote that attending a white college and then a black law school provided the perfect book for his education.

At DePauw he participated in college oratory competitions and listened to local black campaigners, part of a lifelong fascination with the art of public speaking. He described his own mild urges and the teachings of others as becoming preachers himself.

In his summers during college, he served as Robert F. Worked as a driver for Maddox, a former mayor of Atlanta and previously president of the National Bank of Atlanta and the American Bankers Association.

Mr. Jordan wrote that he was an inexplicable creature to a wealthy Southern white man like Robert Maddox. After watching young Mr. Jordan take his break at the Maddox home’s luxurious library, Mr. Maddox is stunned to learn that his driver can read – a revelation he will repeatedly relate to friends and relatives, telling them, “read Vernon Can. ”Mr. Jordan used the phrase as the title of his memoir, which he wrote with the historian Annette Gordon-Reid and published in 2001.

After graduating from law school in 1960, he became a law clerk Donald Lee HotelA prominent black lawyer who had a busy one-man civil rights practice in Atlanta. Mr. Jordan worked closely on the case that alienated the University of Georgia and grew closer to Charlene Hunter (later journalist and writer Charlene Hunter-Gault), one of two young black litigants who entered court after winning Received. On his first day of classes, Mr. Jordan was photographed escorting him into the compound surrounded by a hostile crowd.

Following the Georgia case, he served as the Georgia Area Director of the NAACP. The job required him to travel to the southeast to oversee civil rights matters, both large and small. He said that he had tried to model himself after his friend, Medgar Evers, an acclaimed director of the Mississippi office who was later murdered.

In short, Mr. Jordan became the director of the Southern Regional Council’s Voter Education Project and was named executive director of the United Negro College Fund in 1970. A year later, his friend Whitney Young, head of the National Urban League, Drowned in trip to lagos, Nigeria, and Mr. Jordan were recruited to fill an unexpected vacancy.

The organization brought Mr. Jordan to New York and exposed him to a wider world. The Urban League attracted a wide range of both white and black prominent citizens, and was closely associated with Corporate America. During his tenure, the group began issuing a widely read annual report called “The State of Black America”.

As the organization’s national leader, Mr. Jordan joined Fort Wayne, Ind., In May 1980 to meet with the leadership of the local Urban League. Traveled to At one time he was in the company of a white board member, Martha Coleman, when a group of white teenagers passed him in a car and taunted him. Later, as Ms. Coleman was locking him in his hotel, he was shot from behind by a white man with a hunting rifle. Mr. Jordan almost died on the operating table, underwent six surgeries and was hospitalized for 89 days.

Joseph Paul Franklin, a racist victim, was charged with the crime, but was acquitted at trial, although he claimed to be a gunman. He was later convicted of other offenses, including for allegedly shooting two black joggers who were walking with white women, and executed in 2013 in Missouri.

He said that working with prominent corporate figures on the National Urban League Board, Mr. Jordan created an ambition to serve corporate boards himself and break his color barriers. He started shying away from the group’s active leadership to take on the role of lawyer and consultant for banks and corporations. In later years he joined the boards of the Celanese Corporation, Bankers Trust, American Express and Xerox in other businesses, to build a network of connections that would serve him well for years to come as his influence grew.

“I often describe Vernon as the first crossover artist,” Kenneth I. Chenault, a close friend and former chief executive of American Express, said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “He was able to go from a leader in the civil rights movement to a pioneer in business, but not losing his commitment to racial equality.”

Mr. Jordan’s slips in the capital were at Texas and Washington-based law firms Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld; He was recruited by Robert Strauss in 1982 as the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and his own capital broker. In 1999, Mr. Jordan joined the Wall Street investment firm Lazard While Akin remained attached to Gump.

Last year, Mr. Jordan was the subject of an hourlong PBS documentary, “Vernon Jordan: Make it Plain.”

His first wife, Shirley (yarbroz) jordan, Died of multiple sclerosis in December 1985 at 48 when he met students at Howard University. She married Ann Dibble Cook in November 1986.

In addition to his daughter, Vicky, he is survived by his wife, two grandchildren and three stepchildren.

Mr. Jordan also leaves behind a long list of younger black leaders, whose careers he promoted and who describe him as a father figure, among them Mr. Walker, Mr. Chenaul and Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox and the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company.

Mr Jordan said on Tuesday that Mr Jordan is beyond giving advice or giving advice. He took him to Georgetown parties and introduced him to people like Clinton and President Barack Obama, and later used his influence to get him a seat on corporate boards.

“Vernon made a point of getting me into these circles,” she said. “I felt that I was very special, and then I came to know that there were too many people for that.”

Clay Raisen contributed reporting.

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