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Updated at 10:20 a.m. ET
Vernon Jordan, the civil rights attorney who built his career as a powerful mediator in politics and business, has passed away at the age of 85.
His daughter, Vicky Jordan, said in a statement sent to National Public Radio that Jordan “passed away peacefully last night surrounded by his loved ones.” “We appreciate all this influx of love and affection.”
A native of Atlanta, Jordan attended Dipau University before obtaining his law degree from Howard University. Soon after his graduation, he dedicated himself to ending discrimination against black Americans in the fight for equal rights. In 1992-1993, he headed President Bill Clinton’s transition team and for decades was a friend and advisor to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Jordan played an important role in abolishing segregation of education in the south, particularly at the college level. In the early 1960s, he became field director in Georgia for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, best known for accompanying Charlene Hunter through a crowd of white protesters at the University of Georgia in 1961.
“He is a symbol of the world and a constant friend of the NAACP, and his contribution to advancing our society towards justice is unparalleled,” said Derek Johnson, NAACP President and CEO, noting that his organization has honored Jordan throughout his life of activism.
Johnson said, “His exemplary life will shine as a light directed at all who seek truth and justice for all people.”
During his long career, Jordan has had periods of leadership of both the National Urban League and United Negro College Fund. He has also worked in voter education and was a counsel counsel for attorney in the United States Office of Economic Opportunity.
In the business world, Vernon has sought to join corporate boards and advisory committees. He was an Honorary Partner at the Akin Gump Law Firm and Senior Managing Director at Lazard Frères & Co. , Which is a financial company in New York.
“We lost a great man today,” said Kim Coopersmith, president of Akin Gump, describing Jordan as “a mentor and wise and reliable friend who, in everything he has done, has inspired us to be the best possible version of ourselves.”
“His generosity was limitless, his direction was strong, and he was delivered with determination and moral clarity that would never be matched,” said Coppersmith. “In many respects, Vernon was unique, and his tremendous contributions – to our company, our country, and us as individuals – will be missed greatly.”