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Civil Rights Activist and Businessman Vernon Jordan has Died at 85

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Vernon Jordan, businessman and advisor to President Bill Clinton, died at the age of 85 on Monday evening.  According to his daughter, Vickee Jordan, “Vernon E. Jordan Jr. passed away peacefully last evening surrounded by loved ones. We appreciate all of the outpouring of love and affection,”

Born in the Jim Crow South city of Atlanta, GA, in 1935, Jordan worked tirelessly through his life, not just in civil rights and politics but also in business.  Harvard Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. discussed his work in an interview with Bloomberg stating he was “kind of the Rosa Parks of Wall Street.” He continued by stating Jordan “realized that the first phase of the modern civil rights movement was fighting legal segregation, but the roots of racism were fundamentally economic.”

Jordan’s civil rights journey began after he graduated from DePauw University in 1957, the only black student in his class.  He continued his education by attaining his law degree from Howard University School of Law in 1960, later returning to Georgia, where he would become an integral part of multiple civil rights organizations.

In his 30s, Jordan worked for the NAACP and the United Negro College Fund, later becoming the President and CEO of the National Urban League in 1971.  He survived an assassination attempt in 1980 by white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin.  Franklin was never prosecuted for shooting Jordan but was executed for the deaths of more than 20 people in 2013.  Throughout his time, Jordan would hold the positions of President of United Negro College Fund, Inc., Director of the Voter Education Project in the Southern Regional Council, Attorney consultant in the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, Assistant to Executive Director in the Southern Regional Council, and the Georgia Field Director in the NAACP.  After turning down President Clinton’s offer to be the first Black U.S. Attorney General, he became the transition team’s co-chairman and an unofficial advisor to the president.  Though holding no office in the administration, Jordan’s influence was felt in convincing Colin Powell to become Secretary of State, and in 1993 he encouraged Clinton to pass the NAFTA agreement.

While being involved in civil rights struggles organizationally, he also joined the struggle in his law career.  As a clerk for Atlanta civil rights attorney icon Donald Lee Hollowell, Jordan was involved in the case of two black students, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, integrating the University of Georgia. In 1982 Jordan retired from the National Urban League to work as an attorney, practicing general, corporate, legislative, and international law at Akin Gump after leaving private practice in Arkansas and Georgia.  Jordan joined New York investment firm Lazard Freres & Co. as a senior managing partner in 2000, releasing his autobiography the following year, “Vernon Can Read!: A Memoir.”  In 2020, PBS released a documentary on the icon entitled “Vernon Jordan: Make It Plain.”

Jordan is survived by his wife of 34 years, Ann Dibble Jordan, and their four children, Antoinette Bush, Mercer Cook, Janice Roberts, and Jacqueline Cook, along with nine grandchildren.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and close friends of this icon.

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Tiffanie Lanelle is a Managing Editor at Urban Newsroom, writer, social and criminal justice advocate, and in executive management at UnmutedCo. As a graduate of Spelman College, she's passionate about the growth and development of the black community, black women and black people.

Crime

Derek Chauvin Found GUILTY on ALL Charges for the Murder of George Floyd

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BLACK NEWS ALERTS SPECIAL REPORT

The jury has reached a verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

WATCH THE VERDICT LIVE:

Feed courtesy of Washington Post

What We Know:

  • The verdict was read in open court with unanimous decisions on all three counts, none of which carry a charge of life in prison. The three counts are as follows:
    • Second-degree unintentional murder (also referred to as felony murder): Sentence up to 40 years in prison.
    • Third-degree murder: Sentence up to 25 years.
    • Second-degree manslaughter: Sentence up to 10 years.
  • The panel of seven women and five men began deliberating Monday after three weeks of witness testimony.
  • The third-degree murder charge had initially been dismissed, but it was reinstated after an appeals court ruling in an unrelated case established new grounds for it days before jury selection started.
  • Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd, who was Black, was handcuffed and lying on the ground.
  • Prosecutors argued that Chauvin’s actions caused Floyd to die from low oxygen or asphyxia. The defense claimed that Floyd’s illegal drug use and a pre-existing heart condition were to blame and urged jurors not to rule out other theories, as well, including exposure to carbon monoxide.

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 03: Graffiti artist Akse spray paints a mural of George Floyd in Manchester’s northern quarter on June 03, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The death of an African-American man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police has sparked protests across the United States, as well as demonstrations of solidarity in many countries around the world. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • During closing arguments, prosecutors sought to focus jurors’ attention on the 9 minutes, 29 seconds they say Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, while Chauvin’s defense attorney told them that “the 9 minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds” of the interaction.
  • Prosecutors called 38 witnesses, including the teenager who recorded the widely seen bystander video that brought global attention to Floyd’s death. She and other bystanders who testified said they are haunted by Floyd’s death and that they wish they had done more to try to save his life. The defense called seven witnesses, two of whom were experts.
  • Chauvin had agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder days after Floyd’s death, but William Barr, then the U.S. attorney general, rejected the deal because, officials said, he was worried that it was too early in the investigation and that it would be perceived as too lenient.

Floyd’s death touched off international protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The city of Minneapolis has spent months preparing for the trial and for the potential of unrest over the verdict.

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Education

Furman University Unveils Statue of its First Black Student

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Joseph Vaughn attended Furman University back in 1965.

What We Know:

  • A statue of Vaughn, the school’s first African-American student, was revealed on Friday, April 16th, 2021, in Greenville, SC. The statue was modeled after a photo of Vaughn walking up to the school’s library. Vaughn died in 1991 and served as president of the Greenville and Southeast NAACP student chapters. He graduated Cum Laude in 1968 before becoming a teacher in Greenville County.
  • He also served as the president of both the Greenville County Association of Teachers and the South Carolina Education Association. Qwameek Bethea, a senior student and president of Furman’s NAACP chapter was the one who convinced the university to build the statue. Vaughn was not originally welcomed by everyone on campus when he became a student. Vaughn allegedly found a noose hanging from his doorknob one morning shortly after he arrived.
  • The Vaughn statue was two years in the making and is part of a larger movement the University began in 2017. The Task Force on Slavery and Justice was created out of inspiration from an op-ed written in 2016. The piece was written by a student of the school and notably questioned the University’s legacy. Vaughn’s statue is one of a dozen recommendations the group proposed to the University for approval.
  • The school expanded its Joseph Vaughn scholarship for students in 2018 and renamed one of its dormitories after Clark Murphy, a black groundskeeper at the school, in 2020. Vaughn is the first person of color whose likeness is featured prominently on the Furman campus. The original unveiling of the statue was planned to be in January but was rescheduled due to high rates of coronavirus around the community at the time.

Members of Vaughn’s family showed up for the occasion as well, noting that Vaughn stood for “an instrument of change.”

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Headlines

Hester Ford, Oldest Living American, Dies at 115

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The North Carolina woman died peacefully in her Charlotte home Saturday, a family member confirmed.

What We Know:

  • According to the Gerontology Research Group, Hester Ford was 115 years and 245 days old at the time of her death. However, the family stated Ford was born on August 15th, 1904, which would’ve made her 116. Whichever age is correct, Ford was the oldest living American, having been confirmed as such in 2019.
  • Ford was born on a farm in Lancaster County, South Carolina. She married John Ford at age 14 and had the first of her 12 children the next year. The couple moved to Charlotte where she remained for the rest of her life. From her 12 children, Ford was granted 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and possibly more than 120 great-great-grandchildren.
  • In a statement, her great-granddaughter Tanisha Patterson-Powe called her grandmother a true innovator. “She never ‘fit into a one size fit all box’.” Patterson-Powe continued, saying “She never complained, never showed defeat or entertained a pity party.”

“She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country. She was a reminder of how far we have come as people on this earth,” said Patterson-Powe.

  • When asked about her secret to a long life, Ford stated, “I just live right, all I know.” According to her family, Ford enjoyed a daily routine of eating half a banana, going outside for fresh air, and reclining while looking through photos or listing to gospel music.

According to the Gerontology Research Group, Thelma Sutcliffe of Nebraska, born in 1906, is now the oldest living American. The oldest living person on Earth however is Kane Tanaka of Japan who is 118.

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