Civil rights leader Vernon Jordan dies at 85

Vernon Jordan, the civil rights leader and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, died Monday night, according to family members. He was 85.

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Jordan’s daughter, Vickee Jordan Adams, confirmed her father’s death in a statement obtained by CBS News.

“My father passed away last night around 10 o’clock, surrounded by loved ones, his wife and his daughter by his side,” Jordan Adams said.

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, also confirmed Jordan’s death in a statement obtained by The Washington Post.

“Today, the world lost an influential figure in the fight for civil rights and American politics, Vernon Jordan,” Johnson said. “An icon to the world and a lifelong friend to the NAACP, his contribution to moving our society toward justice is unparalleled.”

Jordan was born in Atlanta in on Aug. 15, 1935, and went on to become “one of the most groundbreaking and influential African American thought leaders in the United States,” according to WSB-TV and KPBS.

After stints as field secretary for the Georgia NAACP and executive director of the United Negro College Fund, he became head of the National Urban League in 1971, becoming 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 in 1980 before transitioning to business and politics.

Jordan’s friendship with Clinton took them both to the White House. He was chosen as co-chairman of Clinton’s presidential transition team and became one of the 42nd president’s closest advisers during his two terms in office, The Washington Post reported. He approached Colin Powell about becoming Secretary of State and encouraged Clinton to pass the NAFTA agreement in 1993. Jordan also secured a job at Revlon for Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern whose sexual encounters with the president spawned a scandal.

Jordan’s actions briefly drew the attention of federal prosecutors investigating Clinton’s actions, but he ultimately was not mentioned in a final report issued by special prosecutor Ken Starr.

In a statement shared on Twitter on Tuesday, Clinton remembered Jordan as “a wonderful friend to Hillary, Chelsea, and me, in good times and bad.”

“We worked and played, laughed and cried, won and lost together,” Clinton wrote. “We loved him very much and always will.”

In 2000, Jordan joined the New York investment firm of Lazard Freres & Co. as a senior managing partner. The following year, he released an autobiography, “Vernon Can Read!: A Memoir.” Also in 2001, Jordan was awarded the Spingarn Medal, the highest honor given to a Black American for outstanding achievement. He has received more than 55 honorary degrees, including ones from both of his alma maters and sat on several boards of directors.

Jordan is survived by his daughter and his second wife. His first wife, Shirley Yarbrough Jordan, died in 1985, according to NBC News.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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