Vernon Jordan, Civil Rights Activist and Former Clinton Adviser, Dead at 85

by Gina Williams

March 2, 2021

Vernon Jordan, the civil rights activist and Washington power broker who also served as a close adviser under the Bill Clinton administration, died on Monday at his home in Washington. He was 85.

His daughter, Vickee Jordan, confirmed his death in a statement to CBS News. “My father passed away last night around 10 pm surrounded by loved ones, his wife, and daughter by his side.”

After a successful legal career, Jordan became directly involved in activism, serving as the NAACP’s Georgia field director. He’d also become involved with other civil rights groups from the Southern Regional Council to the Voter Education Project. By 1970, Jordan was selected to head the Urban League while still in his 30s. He’d serve as president from 1971 to 1981 and nearly die from an assassination attempt in 1980.

After working for several Civil Rights Movement organizations, Jordan was chosen by President Bill Clinton as a close adviser, serving as part of Clinton’s transition team in 1992-1993. Jordan became known as an influential figure and a powerful force behind the scenes of American politics, becoming a close friend of President Barack Obama as well.

Obama spoke on his relationship with Jordan. “Like so many others, Michelle and I benefited from Vernon Jordan’s wise counsel and warm friendship — and deeply admired his tireless fight for civil rights,” Obama tweeted. “We hope the memory of his extraordinary presence and the legacy of his work bring comfort to Ann, Vickee, and his family.”

At the announcement of Jordan’s death, condolences rang in from civil rights and political leaders:

Vernon Jordan is survived by his wife, daughter, and other family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

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