National Council of Negro Women Pays Tribute to Vernon Jordan
Vernon Jordan was an American Patriot and we have lost another champion of Democracy. He was a towering figure of dignity and grace who was unafraid. It was his determination, fearlessness, and an unrelenting commitment to equity and justice that will be Vernon Jordon’s indelible legacy. A native of Atlanta, we all take pride in this Georgia-born hero.
Mr. Jordan, who was raised in the segregation-era, got his first inkling of the world of power and influence that had largely been denied Black Americans like him while waiting tables at one of the city’s private clubs, where his mother catered dinners, and as a driver for a wealthy white banker, who was startled to discover that the tall Black youth at the wheel could read.
As a young lawyer, he organized voter-registration drives, served as field secretary for the Georgia NAACP, and executive director of the United Negro College Fund. In the 1970s, he headed the National Urban League, which promotes education and economic opportunities. Under his leadership, the Urban League added 17 more chapters and its budget swelled to more than $100 million. The organization also broadened its focus to include voter registration drives and conflict resolution between Blacks and law enforcement. He survived severe injuries inflicted by a sniper’s bullet in 1980. He went on to a dazzlingly successful powerbroker and molded past capital insiders like Clark M. Clifford, Robert S. Strauss, and Lloyd M. Cutler.
Mr. Jordan was a key campaign adviser to President Bill Clinton during his first presidential campaign and co-chaired Clinton’s transition team. Along the way he cultivated a who’s who of younger Black leaders, inviting them to monthly one-on-one lunches, dispensing advice on everything from what to read to what to wear, and using his unmatched influence to promote their careers in business, politics, and the nonprofit world.
Vernon Jordan and Dorothy Height had a very special relationship. Mr. Jordan, as noted by Dr. Height in “Open Wide the Freedom Gates” was a great help with the purchase of the NCNW Headquarters Building at 633 Pennsylvania Ave. He was also one of the earliest recipients of the NCNW Uncommon Height Award. At NCNW we have lost a hero and friend and we extend our sincere condolences to the family of Vernon Jordan.
Ingrid Saunders Jones,
Immediate Past National Chair and Sixth President, NCNW