Vernon JordanJuly 21, 2008
One of my colleagues at Durham County Library, our Assistant Director for Administrative Services, Joyce McNeill, recently met Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. I asked another of our staff members, a young African-American man, if he knows of Vernon Jordan. No, he said, he had never heard of him. I said, “Well, I’m going to read his book, which is called Vernon Can Read!, and it would be pretty cool if you’d read it too, and we can discuss it.”
Vernon Jordan is of course one of the great civil rights leaders of our time. Among many, many accomplishments, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Urban League, Chair of President-Elect Clinton’s transition team, and Georgia Field Director of the NAACP when Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes were the first African-Americans admitted to the University of Georgia.
When Ms. McNeill met Mr. Jordan following a speech he gave at the American Library Association conference, they talked awhile and learned of a number of mutual acquaintances here in Durham, such as the late John H. Wheeler, Dr. John Hope Franklin, John W. Edwards, and Benjamin Ruffin. Jordan gave the eulogies for both Edwards and Ruffin in recent years.
Jordan has for many years served on the boards of directors of companies and foundations including Xerox, Revlon, American Express, and Lazard Freres investment banking firm, where he is Senior Managing Director. He has been with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld since the early 1980s and currently serves as Senior Counsel.
Vernon Can Read!: A Memoir not only tells the captivating story of his life through the early 1980s. This book distills his wisdom, his integrity, his leadership, and his understanding of the forces of history and all that the black community in America has done to overcome a tragic and burdensome past, as well as what is still undone.
Jordan has written another book, which will be published later this year, called Make It Plain: A Life of Public Speaking. I can’t wait!