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Standing on the Broad Shoulders of Vernon Jordan

I was blessed and fortunate to know Vernon Jordan as a mentor and a friend. He played an instrumental role in my life.

Vernon spoke often about standing on the shoulders of others—and during the decades that I counted on his counsel, often across the lunch table, I was always proud to stand on his.

As a civil rights lawyer, in his work with the NAACP, the Voter Education Project, and later as President of the National Urban League, he fought on the frontlines of social change. Then he carried the cause of justice with him to the board room, opening the door for countless others, like me, behind him. While no one can fill his chair, he added seats at the table—inviting new voices to crucial conversations about the righteous responsibility of necessary change.

Vernon said that “we exist temporarily through what we take, but live forever through what we give.” Through all that he gave, he not only led a uniquely American life, but leaves an extraordinary legacy—in all of us who stand on his shoulders.

We mourn Vernon’s passing. We grieve with Ann, Vickee, Toni, Janice and Mercer, and their families. But he lives forever, with the ancestors, through the work that we carry forward.