Vernon Jordan, Civil Rights Activist and Former Clinton Adviser, Has Died at 85 
Earl Gibson III

Today the nation is mourning the loss of Vernon Jordan, civil rights icon and former adviser to President Bill Clinton. 

According to his family, Jordan died March 1, 2021 at the age of 85. In a statement released to CBS News, Jordan’s daughter, Vickee Jordan Adams, said, “my father passed away last night around 10p surrounded by loved ones, his wife and daughter by his side.” 

Jordan was raised in the segregated South and landed prominent roles in the civil rights movement and politics. He developed a close relationship with former president Bill Clinton, earning himself the nickname “first friend.” Although he did not hold an official title, he served as an aide during Clinton’s presidency. He’s also remembered for encouraging Colin Powell to fill the role of Secretary of State.  

Between 1971-1981, Jordan was the first lawyer to serve as president of The National Urban League. The organization was traditionally led by social workers. “Vernon assumed leadership of The National Urban League at a crucial moment in history, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act,” The National Urban League said in a statement released today. “The broad, legal goals of the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement had been achieved. His mission, as he saw it, was to empower Black Americans to realize the promise of these victories.” In response to Jordan’s passing, the organization stated, “The nation has lost one of its greatest champions of racial and economic justice.  He was a transformational leader who brought the movement into a new era.  He was a personal mentor and dear friend. His passing leaves a tremendous void that can never be filled…The National Urban League would not be where it is today without Vernon Jordan. We have lost more than a leader; we have lost a brother.” 

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams took to Twitter this morning to remember the civil rights leader. Jordan “battled the demons of voter suppression and racial degradation, winning more than he lost,” she said. “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.” 

During an interview with The New York Times in 2000, Jordan said, “My view on all this business about race is never to get angry, no, but to get even. You don’t take it out in anger; you take it out in achievement.” 

Jordan is survived by his wife, Ann, and his daughter, Vickee. 

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