Vernon Jordan, Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 85


Civil rights leader Vernon Jordan passed away on Monday evening.

The close advisor of former president Bill Clinton was 85.

His daughter, Vickee Jordan, released the news in a statement, revealing that he “passed away peacefully last evening surrounded by loved ones.”

“We appreciate all of the outpouring of love and affection,” she said.

Speaking to CNN, his niece Ann Walker shared that her uncle had his favorite dinner and dessert — chocolate chip ice cream — before he went to bed. “It was just the way he would have wanted it,” Walker said.

Jordan graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, in 1957, with a degree in political science. During his time at the college, he was the only Black student in his class. Jordan jumpstarted his civil rights journey after graduating from Howard University School of Law.

In the early 1960s, Jordan became the Georgia field director for the NAACP before serving as the director of the Southern Regional Council for the Voter Education Project (1964–68). He was then chosen to become the president of the National Urban League from 1971 to 1981.

The tributes began pouring in on Tuesday morning after his death was confirmed:

“Mourning the passage of my friend, the extraordinary Vernon Jordan. He battled the demons of voter suppression and racial degradation, winning more than he lost. He brought others w/him. And left a map so more could find their way. Love to his family. Travel on with God’s grace,” Stacey Abrams tweeted.

“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.”

Rest in Power, Vernon Jordan.

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