Vernon Jordan, a civil rights lawyer who worked on landmark cases desegregating schools for African-Americans and became a towering figure in Democratic politics, has died, his family said Tuesday.
Jordan’s death in Washington on Monday at the age of 85 was announced by his daughter, Vickee Jordan.
Jordan, who was seriously wounded in a 1980 assassination attempt by an avowed white supremacist, was a leading figure in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and in the Democratic Party.
He was a close advisor to former US president Bill Clinton and served as chairman of his 1992 presidential transition team.
“From civil rights to business, Mr. Jordan demonstrated the highest quality of leadership and created a path forward for African-Americans where there were none,” said Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, a leading civil rights organization, said Jordan’s “contribution to moving our society toward justice is unparalleled.”
Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, described Jordan as a “giant of the Civil Rights movement.
“His leadership took our nation closer to its Founding promise: all are created equal,” Pelosi said.
Jordan was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up in the southern city during a time of strict racial segregation.
After receiving a law degree from Howard University in Washington, he worked on a number of cases seeking to seeking to secure voting rights for African-Americans and to dismantle segregation.
He was notably involved in a 1961 lawsuit that paved the way for the first Black students to attend the University of Georgia.
Jordan worked for the NAACP before becoming president of the National Urban League, a civil rights organization.
He was seriously wounded by a sniper outside a hotel in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in May 1980.
A white supremacist was acquitted in 1982 of attempted murder but later confessed to shooting Jordan after being convicted in another case.
During the latter part of his life, Jordan was active in business, serving on the boards of a number of leading American companies including American Express, Revlon and Xerox