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Director Shares Memories, Stories Of Making Film On Civil Rights Activist Vernon Jordan

Raised in the Jim Crow South, Vernon Jordan, shown in 2014, rose to have a successful career in law and business, led several civil rights organizations and became a close friend and adviser to former President Bill Clinton.
Raised in the Jim Crow South, Vernon Jordan, shown in 2014, rose to have a successful career in law and business, led several civil rights organizations and became a close friend and adviser to former President Bill Clinton.
Credit Jack Plunkett / Associated PRess file

Atlanta and the nation are remembering the life of civil rights activist Vernon Jordan.

Raised in the Jim Crow South, Jordan rose to lead a successful career in law and business, headed several civil rights organizations and eventually became a close friend and adviser to former President Bill Clinton.

As a young lawyer, Jordan played a key role in the integration of the University of Georgia.

In 1961, he helped escort the first Black students to enroll at UGA through a hostile white crowd. That same building where both students — Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes — took their first steps has now been renamed the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building.

After being elected president of the National Urban League in 1971, Jordan forged a friendship with Clinton. He was considered a close adviser to Clinton during his two terms in the White House.

Director Dawn Porter released her latest film, “Vernon Jordan: Make It Plain,” last December.

>>>To see a film preview and panel discussion, click here

Listeners might also recognize her name from other films, including “Gideon’s Army” and “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” also released last year about the late Georgia congressman.

Jordan’s death comes just months after the deaths of Lewis and the Rev. C.T. Vivian.

Porter joined WABE’s “All Things Considered” host Jim Burress live to talk about making the film about Jordan and the memories she shared with him.

In the documentary, Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center for African American Research at Harvard, said that Jordan was the first person to realize that “a devastatingly effective form of Black power would be top-down integration, at the heart of American capitalism, Wall Street. Vernon Jordan has done more to integrate the corridors of financial power than any African American in history. Vernon Jordan is the Rosa Parks of Wall Street.”

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton said in a statement that “Jordan brought his big brain and strong heart to everything and everybody he touched.”

The National Urban League acknowledged Jordan’s passing, writing that the nation has “lost a great leader whose presence will be deeply missed.”

Former President Barack Obama tweeted that, like so many others, “Michelle and I benefitted from Vernon Jordan’s wise counsel.”

Former candidate for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams also tweeted that Jordan “battled the demons of voter suppression and racial degradation, winning more than he lost.”