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WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 2, 2021) — Howard University School of Law Dean, Danielle Holley-Walker, will never forget those four words: “How’s my law school?”

Those were the words that Howard Law alumnus Vernon E. Jordan Jr. (J.D. ’60) spoke to her every time he called to check on her and offer support. So, it came as a shock to Holley-Walker when she woke up this morning and learned the news that Jordan, a civil rights leader, had died Monday evening at 85.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of distinguished Howard Law alumnus Vernon Jordan,” Holley-Walker said. “He was a civil rights icon and a stalwart advocate for justice…always seeking to help people who needed it the most.”

At the time of his death, Jordan was a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. Also, Jordan was a Howard University trustee emeritus. The former president of the National Urban League rose to prominence as a civil rights activist with close ties in all corners of American politics, though he was closest with Democrats, including presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama. Also, he worked with Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

But Jordan never let his busy life get in the way of his close connection with Alma Mater. He was a regular chapel speaker at the Rankin Chapel Sunday Speaker Series, at which the law school community would attend in high volume as supporters to hear from him and engage in stimulating dialogue. 

“He was just always connected. He just had that love for the University and the law school that was a present tense,” Holley-Walker said, recalling that Jordan always introduced her with the phrase, ‘This is my dean.’

Howard Law alumna and assistant director for Career Services, Lauren Jackson (J.D. ’17), is so grateful to have met Jordan.

“Mr. Jordan was the manifestation of an individual living their life with purpose, on purpose,” Jackson said. “I had a pleasure meeting him my 3L year during his (sermon) and will never forget his reminder that we stand in the shoulders of those who had the courage to blaze a trail before us. As a benefactor of Mr. Jordan’s courage, I, as I’m sure all members of the Howard Law family, will continue to honor his legacy and thank him for a job well done.”

Keri Foster, Howard Law adjunct faculty member and director of bar passage and student success, echoes Jackson’s sentiments.

“Mr. Jordan inspired me in many ways, but especially because he always offered unwavering support to the law school and its students,” Foster said. “His passing challenges me, and my fellow alumni, to always reach back as he did. Mr. Jordan will be deeply missed.”

Jordan, born on August 15, 1935, graduated from DePauw University in Indiana in 1957, and Howard Law in 1960. He began his career fighting segregation, beginning with a lawsuit against University of Georgia's integration policy in 1961. He worked as a field director for the NAACP and as a director of the Southern Regional Council for the Voter Education Project before he became president of the National Urban League.

“My deepest condolences to the Jordan family,” Holley-Walker said. “Howard Law will continue to celebrate his legacy.”