“I’m here because I stand on many, many shoulders, and that’s true of every black person I know who has achieved.” ~Vernon Jordan
On March 1, 2021, civil rights activist, businessman and presidential advisor, Vernon Jordan passed away at the age of 85, in Washington, DC. He dedicated his life to promoting voting rights, economic rights and civil rights, as well as fighting against discrimination and segregation. Jordan was a powerhouse in Washington, DC, with his influence on and guidance to several high-ranking political officials. Jordan was a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Bilderberg Group. He received numerous awards and honors, including the Barnard Medal of Distinction, the Spingarn Medal and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. He was also a member of Omega Psi Phi and Sigma Pi Phi fraternities.
Vernon Eulion Jordan, Jr. was born on August 15, 1935, in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from DePauw University in 1957, with a degree in political science, and later earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the Howard University School of Law. Jordan had a successful career in the law office of Donald L. Hollowell, a civil rights activist. He worked on the racial discrimination case against the University of Georgia, and personally escorted Charlayne Hunter to the administration office in 1961. After a successful law career, Jordan became a field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for the state of Georgia. In 1970, he became the Director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council and the Executive Director of the United Negro College Fund. Jordan was President of the National Urban League from 1971 to 1981, where he expanded the organization by adding seventeen new chapters and increased its budget to $100 million.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Jordan was a commanding presence in Washington, DC. He was an advisor and friend to several US presidents, and held a high-power position as a lawyer-lobbyist at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a politically involved law firm. The National Archives holds several speeches given by Jordan, including remarks at 29th Annual Frederick Douglass Awards Dinner in 1994, the Economic Club of Indianapolis in 1995 and “Our Dream at the Crossroads” in 1997. Within the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and the Barack Obama Presidential Library are photographs, meeting minutes and other documentation of Jordan’s role as advisor and friend to these presidents.