Mr. Jordan has been a long-time, leading figure in the civil rights movement. Upon graduation from Howard University School of Law in 1960, he joined the firm of a civil rights activist in Atlanta and became involved in a case against the University of Georgia to challenge racist policies.
In 1962, Jordan became a Georgia field director for the NAACP and made speeches, organized and opened new NAACP branches, coordinated demonstrations and called for economic boycotts of industries that would not employ Blacks. These boycotts were so successful that stores in Atlanta began to hire Blacks that same year.
Jordan realized that the key to power lay in the vote. In 1964, he became Director of the Voter Education Project, where he coordinated voter registration drives and counseled the electorate. The wave of new Black voters helped to dramatically increase the number of Black elected officials. Jordan developed a reputation among the civil rights leadership as a level-headed mediator who was able to arbitrate solutions in the face of conflicts.
In addition, Jordan served as the head of the United Negro College Fund and later as the President of the National Urban League from 1971 to 1981. At the National Urban League, he was instrumental in integrating American businesses and providing economic and social support to the expanding Black middle class. After surviving a white racist’s assassination attempt in 1980, he returned to practicing law and became a pillar of America’s legal, corporate and political arenas.
A key strategist and advisor to many prominent civil rights leaders over the years, Jordan also developed relationships with many U.S. presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton.
Jordan is a senior managing director at Lazard, a preeminent financial advisory and asset management firm, and senior counsel at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. He has served on the Board of Directors of numerous Fortune 500 corporations and as a trustee to Howard University and DePauw University.
“Mr. Jordan’s record of achievement in so many different arenas can be matched by few others,” commented Don Liu, Past Chairman of the MCCA Board of Directors and General Counsel for Xerox Corporation. “His business acumen is highly regarded, for he brings his insights to the corporate board rooms where he serves as a director, including at Xerox, where he was a board member for many years. He has worked tirelessly in business, law, politics and education to create opportunities and improve the lives of countless Americans. His impact on society has been profound, and MCCA is honored to present him with our first Lifetime Achievement Award.”
“Vernon Jordan is a hero to me and countless others who are the fortunate beneficiaries of his lifetime legacy of advocating for civil rights and opening doors of opportunity in all sectors of our society,” said Veta T. Richardson, MCCA’s Executive Director. “Mr. Jordan’s achievements in law and business helped to usher in a new generation of post-civil-rights era leaders of color who now serve at the highest levels in corporate executive suites, Wall Street, governors’ mansions, the nation’s capital, and the White House.” Being held at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Diversity Honors Gala will honor those who have made outstanding contributions to diversity in the legal field. It will begin with an Oscar-like awards program in the Starr Theater that combines honors with entertainment, followed by an elegant VIP Dinner Reception in Alice Tully Hall. About 1,200 attendees are expected.