Vernon Jordan, Trustee and longtime friend of Brookings, passed away on Monday, March 1 at the age of 85. Vernon was first elected to the Board in 1986 and was an Honorary and then Lifetime Trustee since 1996. His wife Ann Dibble Jordan has been a member of the Brookings Board since 1996.
After graduating from Howard University Law School, Vernon successfully challenged the University of Georgia over racial discrimination in its admissions policies. He served as a field director for the NAACP, a director of the Southern Regional Council for the Voter Education Project, executive director of the United Negro College Fund, and as president of the National Urban League. He also served as a counselor to numerous presidents and other powerful figures in Washington. Vernon also had a very successful career in business, serving as a partner of Akin Gump and then later of Lazard, and as member of the board of directors of some of the largest companies in the world. He was the author of a memoir, Vernon Can Read!, and a collection of his public speeches, Make It Plain: Standing Up and Speaking Out. PBS also produced a documentary of his remarkable life, Vernon Jordan: Make It Plain, which premiered in December 2020.
“Vernon Jordan was a towering civil rights icon and true American leader,” said Brookings Institution President John R. Allen. “We were so very proud to have him as a member of the Brookings community these many years and deeply mourn his passing. My most fervent prayers now go to his family and friends, whom I offer my most sincere condolences and respects.”
Brookings Board Co-Chairs Glenn Hutchins and Suzanne Nora Johnson stated, “We are very saddened by the passing of Vernon Jordan. He was a powerful voice for equity and equality, was a critical figure for U.S. administrations dating back to President Lyndon B. Johnson, and most importantly to us, cared deeply for the Brookings Institution. We know his absence will be keenly felt in the days to come and will miss him greatly.”
The Brookings community will forever remember and celebrate Vernon and all he contributed to making our country more just and equal.