March 10, 2021
Ode to Mr. Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.
Fare Thee Well, Fare Thee Well
Yesterday, Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. was laid to rest in a wonderful ceremony that over 2,500 people participated in virtually. Vernon Jordan had been a stalwart supporter of The HistoryMakers. His stepdaughter, Toni Cook Bush, is our board chair and the announcement that he had died last Monday shook our world at The HistoryMakers. I could not help but think of the old Negro Spiritual "In That Great Getting’ Up Morning":

In that great gettin' up mornin'
Fare thee well, fare thee well
In that great gettin' up mornin'
Fare thee well, fare thee well
In that great gettin' up mornin'
Fare thee well, fare thee well
In that great gettin' up mornin'
Fare thee well, fare thee well
Jordan held by his mother, Mary Belle
Jordan held by his father, Vernon E. Jordan, Sr. with his older brother, Windsor
Jordan speaking as head of the National Urban League
As I sat there in our offices, with tears in my eyes, in a room surrounded by images of him, I could not help but think of the greatness that we had just lost. There was the photo of his mother, Mary Belle Jordan, looking adoringly at her youngest son, her MAN-child. He loved his mother deeply and spoke of this love throughout his life. There was he, his father, Vernon E. Jordan, Sr., and his older brother, Windsor; photos of his time with the NAACP, UNCF, and as a young lawyer escorting Charlayne Hunter-Gault onto the University of Georgia’s campus; as head of the National Urban League; as a powerbroker lawyer at Akin Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld where, over time, he would split his time between D.C. and New York where he served also as an investment banker at Lazard Frères.
Jordan seated with his wife Ann, surrounded by their family at An Evening With Vernon Jordan
Jordan and his wife Ann with
Ursula Burns (middle)
Jordan and his daughter, Vickee Jordan Adams
There were photos with Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Bill Coleman, Franklin Thomas, Dick Parsons, Ken Chenault, Ursula Burns, Ted Wells, General Colin Powell, Bill Lewis; on Martha’s Vineyard and at the Farm Neck Country Club. He was with his wife, Ann Cook Jordan, his daughter Vickee Jordan Adams, his stepchildren Toni Cook Bush, Janice Roberts and Mercer Cook, surrounded by his grandchildren. There are photos after photos with him and the nation’s most powerful and celebrated. These photos, along with his carefully crafted speeches, his letters, the recordings of his speeches, and his celebrated biography, Vernon Can Read, by the award winning historian and author Annette Gordon-Reed, tell the story of his life. Although his life was an extraordinary one, his roots were sown in Atlanta’s public housing across from the Atlanta University Center, as a law student at Howard University Law School guided by some of nation’s greatest black legal minds, his time as head of the National Urban League, and by experiences that were indeed life changing and career making. 
From left to right: Kenneth I. Chenault, Franklin A. Thomas, William M. Lewis, Jr., Raymond J. McGuire, Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., and Richard Parsons
Jordan deep in thought
His dress was impeccable. His gait striking. His countenance imposing. His oratorical skills one of a kind. His committee to our nation and his people immutable. His appearances at Howard University’s Rankin Chapel often were standing room only. His eulogies so movingly celebrated the memories of friends and colleagues. They were special, combining the power of a motivational speaker and the cadence of a Baptist preacher, leaving those in attendance mesmerized knowing that they had just experienced something extraordinary—this was the legacy of Vernon Jordan. 
My thoughts then went on to how his association with The HistoryMakers began: it started at a dinner where Toni Cook Bush pointed to me from across the room as she whispered into Vernon’s ear. He looked in my direction, smiled and gave me the Vernon nod of approval. Then, 2003 would have him serving as our Event Chair for our D.C. Salute to The HistoryMakers. In 2004, he and Ann would host the dinner where we honored Diahann Carroll in An Evening With Diahann Carroll. That would lead to An Evening With Colin Powell, An Evening With Dick Parsons, An Evening With Ursula Burns, and An Evening With Ken Chenault. In 2014, when we honored Vernon Jordan with An Evening With Vernon Jordan, it would be the same year that we would celebrate the Library of Congress becoming The HistoryMakers' permanent repository. Along the way, I started to talk to Mr. Jordan about his own personal archives and the importance of their preservation. At first, he did not think this discussion important. But as time moved on, his attitude changed. On August 14, 2019, when he spoke for our program Preserving African American Collections: A Cultural and Moral Imperative: Why I Said Yes, he acknowledged his change of heartpreservation was indeed important. He encouraged the audience to support our efforts. This giant of a man had helped, like he had done with so many others, to move The HistoryMakers to a new level. His prescient nature at work yet again. 
Jordan presenting at the Martha's Vineyard program
There will only be one Vernon Jordan, and his life represents so many important historical moments of both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His life of 85 years was indeed well lived. God Bless you Mr. Jordan and Fare Thee Well

Sincerely,
Julieanna Richardson
Founder & President
The HistoryMakers