Vernon Jordan, the civil rights lawyer who built a career as a power broker in politics and business, has died at age 85.
A native of Atlanta, Jordan attended DePauw University before earning his law degree at Howard University. Soon after graduating, he devoted himself to ending discrimination against Black Americans in the fight for equal rights. In 1992-93, he chaired President Bill Clinton's transition team, and for decades he remained a friend and adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
In the early 1960s, he became the Georgia field director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and he famously helped escort Charlayne Hunter through a crowd of white protesters at the University of Georgia in 1961.
During his long career, Jordan had stints leading both the National Urban League and the United Negro College Fund. He also worked in voter education and was an attorney consultant for the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity.
In the business world, Vernon was sought out to join corporate boards and advisory panels. He was a partner emeritus at the Akin Gump law firm and a senior managing director at Lazard Frères & Co., a financial company in New York.
He previously held the following positions: president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, Inc.; executive director of the United Negro College Fund, Inc.; director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council; attorney-consultant, U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity; assistant to the executive director of the Southern Regional Council; Georgia field director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and was an attorney in private practice in Arkansas and Georgia.
Jordan’s presidential appointments include: the President’s Advisory Committee for the Points of Light Initiative Foundation; the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on South Africa; the Advisory Council on Social Security; the Presidential Clemency Board; the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission; the National Advisory Committee on Selective Service; and the Council of the White House Conference “To Fulfill These Rights.”
Jordan’s corporate and other directorships include: American Express Company; Asbury Automotive Group, Inc.; Dow Jones & Company, Inc.; Howard University (Trustee); J.C. Penney Company, Inc.; Lazard Ltd; Xerox Corporation; International Advisory Board of DaimlerChrysler and Barrick Gold. Jordan is a member of the Bars of Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Georgia and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the Council on Foreign Relations, and The Bilderberg Meetings, and is president of The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Jordan is the author of Vernon Can Read! A Memoir (2001).
He is a graduate of DePauw University and the Howard University Law School, and holds honorary degrees from more than sixty colleges and universities.