Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. (born August 15, 1935) is an American
business executive and civil rights activist in the United States. A
leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement, he was chosen by
Bill Clinton as a close adviser. Jordan has become known as
an influential figure in American politics.
1 Early life and education
2 Legal career and activism
3 Murder attempt
4 Clinton administration
5 Recent activities
6 Marriage and family
8 Legacy and honors
9 Representation in other media
11 External links
Early life and education
Vernon Jordan was born in Georgia, to Mary Jordan and Vernon E. Jordan
Sr.; he has a brother, Windsor. He is the cousin of James Shaw, a
musician who is professionally billed as The Mighty Hannibal.
Jordan grew up with his family in Atlanta's segregated society during
the 1950s. He was an honor graduate of David Tobias Howard High
School. Rejected for a summer intern's job with an insurance company
after his sophomore year in college because of his race, he earned
money for a few summers for college by working as a chauffeur to
former city mayor Robert Maddox, then a banker. Jordan graduated from
DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, in 1957. In an interview
Robert Penn Warren
Robert Penn Warren for the book Who Speaks for the Negro?, Jordan
described his difficulties at DePauw as the only black student in a
class of 400. He earned a law degree at Howard University School of
Law in 1960. He is a member of the
Omega Psi Phi
Omega Psi Phi and Sigma Pi Phi
Legal career and activism
Jordan returned to
Atlanta to join the law office of Donald L.
Hollowell, a civil rights activist. The firm, including Constance
Motley, sued the
University of Georgia
University of Georgia for racial discrimination in
its admission policies. The suit ended in 1961 with a Federal Court
order demanding the admission of two African Americans, Charlayne
Hunter and Hamilton E. Holmes. Jordan personally escorted Hunter past
a group of angry white protesters to the university admissions office.
Jordan working on a voter education project in 1967.
After leaving private law practice in the early 1960s, Jordan became
directly involved in activism in the field, serving as the Georgia
field director for the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People. From the NAACP, he moved to the Southern Regional
Council and then to the Voter Education Project.
In 1970, Jordan became executive director of the United Negro College
Fund. He was president of the
National Urban League
National Urban League from 1971 to
While still with the National Urban League, Jordan in 1981 said of the
Ronald Reagan administration:
I do not challenge the conservatism of this administration. I do
challenge its failure to exhibit a compassionate conservatism that
adapts itself to the realities of a society ridden by class and race
That year he resigned from the
National Urban League
National Urban League to take a
position as legal counsel with the Washington, D.C., office of the
Dallas law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
On May 29, 1980, Jordan was shot and seriously wounded outside the
Marriott Inn in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was accompanied by Martha
Coleman at the time. Police thought initially that it might have been
a domestic incident related to Coleman's life. Then-president Jimmy
Carter visited Jordan while he was recovering, an event that became
the first story covered by the new network CNN. Joseph Paul
Franklin was acquitted in 1982 of charges of attempted murder.
However, in 1996, after having been convicted of murder in another
case, Franklin admitted to having committed the shooting.
Vernon Jordan shares conversation with famed photographer Alfred
Eisenstaedt. At the time, Jordan was visiting President Clinton on the
island of Martha's Vineyard.
Jordan, a friend and political adviser to Bill Clinton, served as part
of Clinton's transition team in 1992–93, shortly after Clinton was
elected president. In the words of The New York Times:
For Mr. Clinton, Mr. Jordan's roles have been manifold: Golfing
companion. Smoother of ruffled feathers (he put the president back in
Zoë Baird after the withdrawal of her nomination to be
attorney general). Consoler in chief (after Mr. Clinton was defeated
for re-election as governor in 1980, after the suicide of Vincent W.
Foster Jr. in 1993). Conduit to the high and mighty (he took Mr.
Clinton in 1991 to the
Bilderberg conference in Germany, an exclusive
annual retreat for politicians and businessmen). Go-between (he told
Mike Espy he had to go as secretary of agriculture, helped win Warren
Christopher a larger role as secretary of state and sounded out Gen.
Colin L. Powell
Colin L. Powell for a Cabinet job).
In 1998 Jordan helped Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern,
after she left the White House. His role was considered controversial
given the scandal that the Clinton administration had suffered because
of the president's involvement with the intern. On October 1,
United States court of appeals
United States court of appeals rejected Jordan's claim for
reimbursement for legal services related to assisting Clinton in
scandals regarding Lewinsky and Paula Jones. Jordan asked the
government to pay him $302,719, but he was paid only $1,215.
in 1998 Jordan was interviewed by
CBS news show 60 Minutes.
Jordan is the only black person who has participated in more than a
few Bilderberg conferences. He was invited in 1969 and 1970 and then
almost every year between 1979 and 2013 according to the official
reports and lists of participants:
Since January 2000, Jordan has been senior managing director with
Lazard Freres & Co. LLC, an investment banking firm. He is also a
member of the board of directors of multiple corporations, including
J.C. Penney Corporation, Asbury Automotive Group,
and the Dow Jones & Company.
He has been a member of the board of directors of Revlon, Sara Lee,
Corning, Xerox, and
RJR Nabisco during the 1989 leveraged buyout fight
RJR Nabisco CEO
F. Ross Johnson and Henry R. Kravis and his
company KKR. A close friend of Jordan was the late
Charles Peter McColough, who persuaded Jordan to join the board of
trustees at Xerox. McColough served as a mentor and friend of Jordan's
until McColough's death.
In the 2004 presidential campaign, Jordan led debate preparation and
negotiation efforts on behalf of John Kerry, the Democratic nominee
for president. That year he was elected president of the Economic
Club of Washington.
In 2006, Jordan served as a member of the Iraq Study Group, which was
formed to make recommendations on U.S. policy in Iraq.
Marriage and family
Jordon married Shirley (née Yarbrough), who died in 1985. They have a
daughter, Vickee Jordan Adams, who works in media relations for Wells
Fargo Home Mortgage.
In 1986 he remarried, to Ann Dibble Jordan. He has nine grandchildren,
seven from his second wife's children, Janice, Mercer, and Toni.
His memoir, Vernon Can Read! (2001), covered his life through the
1980s, and was written with historian and legal scholar Annette
A collection of his public speeches, with commentary, called Make It
Plain: Standing Up and Speaking Out (2008) (Public Affairs, 2008).
Jordan also served as the narrator for American composer Joseph
Schwantner's New Morning for the World: "Daybreak of Freedom," a
collection of quotations from various speeches by Martin Luther King
Legacy and honors
Jordan is a life member of the
Council on Foreign Relations
Council on Foreign Relations and a
member of the Bilderberg Group.
Barnard College awarded Jordan its highest honor, the Barnard
Medal of Distinction.
2001, he was awarded the
Spingarn Medal by the NAACP for lifetime
2001 – his memoir won the Best Nonfiction Book for 2001 from the
Black Caucus of the American Library Association. In 2002 it won an
Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and a Trailblazer Award from the
Metropolitan Black Bar Association.
Representation in other media
His role in the Clinton–
Lewinsky scandal was satirized on Saturday
Night Live by Tim Meadows, who sang "I am Vernon Jordan."
Jordan made a cameo appearance in the 1998 film Rounders, starring
Matt Damon and Edward Norton.
In May and October, 2010, Jordan made two cameo appearances in the CBS
television series The Good Wife.
^ Duffy, John. "The Mighty Hannibal". Allmusic. Retrieved April 30,
^ Vernon Jordan: More than a "First Friend", The Harbus Online,
Robert Penn Warren
Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. "Vernon E. Jordan,
Jr". Robert Penn Warren's
Who Speaks for the Negro?
Who Speaks for the Negro? Archive. Retrieved
4 February 2015.
^ An Historical Look At the Impact of the United Negro College Fund
and its Member Institutions on American History, UNCF.
^ The New York Times, 23 July 1981, p. 17.
^ Moore Hall, Sarah (June 16, 1980). "Martha Coleman, the Shadowy
Figure in the
Vernon Jordan Case, Has Led a Troubled Life". People
Magazine. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
^ Video clip of CNN's first broadcast
^ Associated Press (Apr 9, 1996). "Racist Admits Sniper Attack On
Vernon Jordan Franklin Was Acquitted In Trial 14 Years
Ago But Now Admits It". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved
^ R. W. Apple, Jr., "THE PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE: THE POWER BROKER;
Jordan Trades Stories With Clinton, and Offers Counsel". The New York
Times (January 25, 1998).
^ PBS, ''THE STARR INVESTIGATION'', March 3, 1998, ''The NewsHour with
Jim Lehrer'' Transcript. Pbs.org.
^ "Washington: Request For Legal Fees Rejected". The New York Times
(October 1, 2003).
Vernon Jordan '57 Named John Kerry's Lead Debate Negotiator &
Elected President of Economic Club of Washington, DePauw University
News, June 28, 2004
Iraq Study Group
Iraq Study Group Members Archived January 28, 2007, at the Wayback
Machine., United States Institute of Peace
Vernon Jordan on Politics, Obama and Civil Rights". NPR. November
^ Make It Plain Archived December 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine..
^ ''New Morning for the World'',
Joseph Schwantner Works List.
Joseph Schwantner Discography. Schwantner.net.
^ "Former Steering Committee Members Bilderberg Meetings" Archived
February 2, 2014, at the Wayback Machine., Bilderberg Meetings
^ "Spingarn Medals Awarded", Louisville Free Public Library
Annette Gordon-Reed '84 to join the Harvard faculty".
Law.harvard.edu. April 30, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
^ Season 28, Episode 12. Snltranscripts.jt.org.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vernon Jordan.
Ubben Lecture/Presidential Inauguration Address at DePauw University;
October 29, 2016
Appearances on C-SPAN
Booknotes interview with Jordan on Vernon Can Read! A Memoir, December
Members of the Iraq Study Group
James Baker (Co-chair)
Lee Hamilton (Co-chair)
Vernon Jordan, Jr.
Sandra Day O'Connor
to final report
First Data Corp.
Railway Express Agency
Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment
Notable current and former executives
J. C. Fargo
Howard L. Clark Sr.
James D. Robinson III
Louis V. Gerstner Jr.
Sanford I. Weill
Kenneth Chenault (Chairman)
Vernon Jordan Jr.
Edward D. Miller
Robert D. Walter
The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman
American Express Incentive Services
Salad Oil Scandal
World Monuments Watch
Falmer Stadium (The
American Express Community Stadium)
Small Business Saturday
Three World Financial Center
Vernon Jordan, Jr.
Presidents of the National Urban League
G. E. Haynes (1910–18)
E. K. Jones (1918–40)
L. B. Granger (1941–61)
W. M. Young, Jr. (1961–71)
V. E. Jordan, Jr. (1971–81)
J. E. Jacob (1982–94)
H. B. Price (1994–2002)
M. J. Little, Jr. (Acting) (2003)
M. H. Morial (Since 2003)
ISNI: 0000 0003 8578 9