Vernon Jordan, who rose from humble beginnings in the segregated South to become a champion of civil rights before reinventing himself as a Washington insider and corporate influencer, has died at 85. In a Tuesday statement to CBS News, Jordan's daughter, Vickee Jordan Adams, said he died Monday night "surrounded by loved ones, his wife and daughter by his side," per the AP. After stints as field secretary for the Georgia NAACP and executive director of the United Negro College Fund, Jordan became head of the National Urban League, serving as the face of Black America's modern struggle for jobs and justice for more than a decade. He was nearly killed by a racist's bullet outside his hotel in Fort Wayne, Ind., in May 1980. Jordan had five surgeries and was visited by President Jimmy Carter during his three-month recovery in the hospital.
"I'm not afraid and I won't quit," Jordan later told Ebony Magazine. "I believe that working with the Urban League, the NAACP, PUSH, and SCLC is the highest form of service that you can perform for Black people," he added. "And if you serve Black people, you serve the country as well." The graduate of the Howard University School of Law resigned from the Urban League in 1982 to become a partner at a law firm. He then became a key adviser to Bill Clinton during his first presidential campaign and co-chaired Clinton's transition team as the first Black person assigned such a role. He was drawn into scandal in securing a job at Revlon for Monica Lewinsky, though he wasn't mentioned in independent counsel Kenneth Starr's report. He went on to receive more than 55 honorary degrees and the Spingarn Medal, the highest honor given to a Black American for outstanding achievement.
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