In this July 27, 1977 file photo, Vernon Jordan, President of the National Urban League, talks to reporters during a press conference in Washington. 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, died Tuesday, March 2, 2021, according to a statement from his daughter. He was 85. (AP Photo/File)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor

Vernon Jordan, who died on March 1 at the age of 85, was not just an American civil rights leader and businessman, but a celebrated Howard University alum who contributed greatly to the fabric of the historically Black institution and to the nation’s capital.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share the passing of a Howard and American giant, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Esq. A proud graduate of the Howard University School of Law, Mr. Jordan served on the Board of Trustees from 1993 to 2014,” Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick wrote in a statement on March 2.

Frederick reflected on Jordan’s many accomplishments as a businessman, civil rights leader and U.S. Presidential appointee, but the Howard President also considered the major impact he had on the university, particularly as a speaker for their Rankin Chapel services.

“He blessed us through his annual sermon at Rankin Chapel, sharing lessons gleaned from the richness of his life and the remarkable role he played in movements to win civil and human rights at home and abroad,” Frederick said.

“Howard University’s Rankin Chapel was his rock, and Mr. Jordan remained faithful and focused on lifting up others and our community throughout his lifetime and encouraged us all to continue on in this important work,” Frederick added.

Vernon Jordan with D.C. Democrats National Committeewoman Sheika Reid (second from left) with her parents and Vernon Jordan. (Courtesy Photo)

Jordan’s last address at Rankin was in April 2019, where he reflected on the words found in Psalm 71: “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come,” according to President Frederick. The civil rights leader also led a charge for the future generation of activists.

“His declaration to current and future generations was that, in an age of immediacy, we must remember that the work of justice takes time, and it is important to find ‘your rock’- a consistent source of inspiration to weather the moments of doubt and difficulty that will sure come,” Frederick wrote.

The Howard University President also took a moment to consider Jordan’s contributions to his own life.

“I was not deserving of his kindness or his love. I will forever remain in gratitude that he was more father than mentor. He never told me what to do or how to do it, but rather he answered my queries with stories of his lived experiences that guided me ever so gently but purposefully,” Jordan said.

National Committeewoman for the D.C. Democrats Sheika Reid, who also heard Jordan speak at Howard on several occasions, reflected on the leader’s life. 

“How does one person have such a broad, unapologetically Black impact on the broader world? Vernon Jordan was able to serve as a mentor to so many of the greatest and brightest that this world has to offer,” Reid told the AFRO “I am grateful for his impact and hope that many from my generation are able to learn from his work.”

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor