Civil Rights Icon Vernon Jordan Dies at 85

By Hampton University

Hampton, Va. (March 2, 2021) — 
Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey and the entire Hampton University community are mourning the loss of civil rights leader,  business executive, and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, Vernon Jordan. He was 85.I was saddened to learn of the death of Mr. Vernon Jordan.  A civil rights figure Vernon was a friend and advisor to me for over 50 years,” said Dr. Harvey. “An iconic figure, he was a friend to Hampton and a man who worked diligently throughout his lifetime fighting for the rights of others.  Having played significant roles in many organizations, including the NAACP and the UNCF, Vernon Jordan’s legacy will long be remembered.”Born on August 15, 1935, Jordan grew up in the segregated South and graduated from DePauw University in Indiana in 1957, the only Black student in his class. He then studied law at Howard University and began his career fighting segregation, starting with a lawsuit against the University of Georgia’s integration policy in 1961 on the behalf of two Black students, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter. Jordan accompanied the two students to the UGA admissions office that year through an angry mob of White students. After serving as field secretary for the Georgia NAACP and executive director of the United Negro College Fund, Jordan headed the National Urban League. He was nearly killed by a racist’s bullet in 1980 before transitioning to business and politics.The former President of the National Urban League rose to prominence as a civil rights activist with close connections across the aisle in politics, including Democratic Presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama. Jordan also worked with Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. However, his closest presidential relationship was with Bill Clinton, whom he had befriended years before Mr. Clinton was elected president in 1992.  Jordan was named co-chairman of the Clinton transition effort and became one of the President’s closest confidants. Despite turning down President Clinton’s offer to be attorney general, Jordan remained a close ally to the president. He was often called upon to handle important issues during the Clinton administration. Jordan received more than 55 honorary degrees, including ones from both of his alma maters, and sat on several boards of directors.Jordan’s first wife, Shirley (Yarbrough) Jordan, whom he had met when they were students at Howard University, died of multiple sclerosis in December 1985 at 48. He married Ann Dibble Cook in November 1986.In addition to his daughter, Vickee, he is survived by his wife, two grandsons, and three stepchildren.