Vernon Jordan: Make it Plain (2020) - full transcript

{\an1}GATES: Vernon Jordan is
the Rosa Parks of Wall Street.

{\an1}LEE: The voice of reason
or conscience for presidents.

{\an1}BUFFET: If I ask Vernon,

{\an1}I'm gonna get
something that's meaningful.

{\an1}CLINTON: I had to listen to
how handsome and brilliant and

{\an1}good he was, you know,
it was revolting.

{\an1}NARRATOR: "Vernon Jordan:
Make it Plain"

Coming up next.

{\an1}NARRATOR: Funding for
"Vernon Jordan: Make it Plain"

{\an7}was provided by Ford Foundation
Just Films.

{\an7}And by the
Andrew W. Mellon foundation.

{\an8}(birds chirping)

{\an1}BERNARD: Good morning, sir.

{\an1}JORDAN: They got you
up early this morning.

{\an1}BERNARD: Yes, sir.


{\an1}JORDAN: All right.

{\an1}Call Powell's secretary and see
if we're gonna have to respond.

Yeah. All right.
I'll talk to you.

{\an1}Bernard, how you been. Okay?

{\an1}BERNARD: I'm fine,
thank you, sir.

{\an1}JORDAN: This yesterday's paper?
It's all about the election.


{\an1}JORDAN: I'm tired
of reading about that.

(Bernard laughs).

{\an1}JORDAN: My father was
a hard-working man.

{\an1}He was a mail carrier.

{\an1}And my father would
have been very content

{\an1}had I finished high school,

{\an1}married a nice girl,
got a job in the post office.

{\an1}For him that would have
been very, a good thing.

{\an1}And my mother's attitude,

{\an1}"“That's not good
enough for this boy.

{\an1}He's gonna do things,
and he's gonna go places."”

{\an1}And I believed her.

{\an7}MODERATOR: Our guest
today on "“Meet the Press"”

{\an7}is Vernon E. Jordan, Junior,

{\an7}President of the
National Urban League.

{\an1}Mr. Jordan has been
active in civil rights work

{\an1}including the NAACP

{\an1}and the Voters Education
Project for twenty-one years.

{\an1}He survived an assassin's
bullet in Fort Wayne, Indiana,

last year.

{\an1}He has announced his resignation
from the Urban League

{\an1}effective the end of this month
to go into private law practice.

{\an1}But it's obvious today that
the civil rights movement is

{\an1}meeting some kind of
resistance or in some way

{\an1}perhaps has ended.

Is it the same as it used to be?

{\an1}Is the momentum gone?

{\an1}Has the civil rights
movement ended?

{\an7}JORDAN: Well, I think that too
many people want to measure

{\an7}the civil rights movement
by the drama of the 1960's.

{\an7}Uh, what has happened is
that that drama has changed,

{\an1}and that drama
brought about many,

{\an1}many significant changes,

{\an1}it, the Civil Rights Act of '64.

{\an1}FAUNTROY: I see Vernon Jordan
a little differently than

traditional civil
rights leaders.

{\an1}He understood that you
can work to help people

on the ground.

{\an1}But that work is always
going to be operating under an

{\an7}umbrella of public policy.

{\an8}You can't help people
without changing the

{\an8}public policies that
create the circumstances

{\an8}in which they live.

{\an1}JORDAN: We have no
full-employment policy.

{\an1}We have no welfare
reform policy.

{\an1}To paraphrase Winston Churchill,

{\an1}"“Never have so many
expected so much and

{\an1}received so little."”


{\an1}CLINTON: When I met
Hillary in 1971,

{\an1}first thing she did was
tell me about Vernon Jordan.

{\an7}I had to listen to how
handsome and brilliant

{\an7}and good he was.

{\an7}You know, it was revolting.

{\an1}He wanted to make his
contribution be part of

{\an1}the movement but
have a unique life.

{\an1}The advisor to
presidents, not just me.

{\an1}GATES: Vernon Jordan was
the first person to realize

{\an1}that a devastatingly effective
form of black power would be

{\an7}top-down integration
at the heart of

{\an7}American capitalism:

{\an7}Wall Street.

{\an1}Vernon Jordan has done more
to integrate the corridors of

{\an1}financial power than any
African American in history.

{\an1}Vernon Jordan is the
Rosa Parks of Wall Street.

{\an7}(theme music plays)

{\an8}(fire crackles)

{\an7}JORDAN: "Rows start chanting,
rocking to the same rhythm in

{\an7}our old rocking chair."

{\an1}Speech Maker has a
big responsibility.

{\an1}"To the highest aspirations."

{\an1}It has to be sufficiently
entertaining that

{\an1}people will listen.

{\an1}But then he has
to say something that

{\an1}makes listening worthwhile...

{\an1}"Back in the back of his mouth."

{\an1}Sometimes I sit here trying
to figure out what to say,

and I look at my mom, and I say,

{\an1}"“What do you
think about this?"”

{\an1}TRUMP: Nearly 180,000 illegal
immigrants with criminal records

{\an7}ordered deported from
our country are tonight

{\an7}roaming free to
threaten peaceful citizens.

{\an8}(audience booing).

{\an7}CROWD: Build that wall,
Build that wall!

{\an1}ANN: We're waiting
on you right now.

{\an1}JORDAN: Sent you to
get me down the stairs.

{\an1}ANN: Everyone sent me
to give you the message.


{\an1}WOMAN: So do we have everybody?

{\an1}Should LB ride
with us in the back?

Are you going to drive separate?

{\an1}WOMAN 2: Can't you fit three
in the, you put three in front?

ANN: What?

{\an1}WOMAN 2: Nanna, go.

{\an1}ANN: Too many bosses.


{\an1}(overlapping chatter).

{\an1}JORDAN: I got the phrase,
"Make it Plain" in church.

{\an1}He said, "“Make it plain,

{\an1}Put it there where
we can get it."”

{\an1}♪ CHOIR: Holy, holy, holy

{\an1}♪ Lord, God, Almighty

{\an1}♪ Oh thy works
shall praise Thy name ♪

{\an1}♪ In earth and sky and sea ♪

{\an1}JORDAN: Good morning,
Rankin Chapel.

{\an1}CONGREGATION: Good morning.

{\an1}JORDAN: During these times
it is tempting to believe that

{\an1}our problems are
particular and that our

{\an1}situation is unprecedented.

{\an1}I have come to say
to you this morning,

{\an1}"“We have been here before."”

{\an1}(audience murmurs).

{\an1}I am reminded of my earliest
exposure to American politics.

{\an1}Growing up in
Atlanta, Georgia, in 1943,

{\an1}there was a gubernatorial race.

{\an1}And Governor Eugene Talmadge
comes on WSB radio,

{\an1}and he says, "“Fellow Georgians,

{\an1}I am running for re-election.

{\an1}I have two planks in my
platform: niggers and roads.

{\an1}I am against the first,
and for the second.

{\an1}This is exactly what
President Trump is saying now.


{\an1}Except his two planks
are immigrants and jobs.

{\an1}He's against the first, and
claims to be for the second.

{\an1}So when the executive orders
bar people from our shores

{\an1}based on what they look
like or how they worship,

{\an1}it is hard not to hear the
echoes of Strom Thurmond on

{\an1}the campaign trail in
1948 or George Wallace

{\an1}in the schoolhouse
door in 1963 saying,

{\an1}"“Segregation today,
tomorrow, forever."”

{\an1}We have been here before.


{\an1}Indeed, because we
have been here before,

{\an1}we know we will endure.

{\an1}But our journey also
teaches us that endurance

is not enough.

{\an1}Listen. We do not sing,
"“We shall endure."”

{\an1}(audience murmur).

{\an1}We sing,
"“We shall overcome."”


{\an7}JORDAN: A member of the
Fulton County Commission

{\an7}made a speech recently
and was quoted in the

{\an7}Atlanta Constitution as
saying that we have to have

{\an7}annexation so as to prevent

{\an1}the center city from
being governed by, quote,

"“the uneducated
and the unfit."”

{\an1}Now, if that is
the basis for annexation,

{\an1}I'm opposed to it.

{\an1}Because the uneducated
and the unfit that

{\an1}he's talkin' about is me,

{\an1}is Maynard, is Leroy, or others
of us in the black community

{\an1}who not only are
educated but are well educated

{\an1}and certainly are well
fit to do anything in this

{\an1}community that any white
man can do in this community.

Thank you.


{\an7}JORDAN: Whenever
I come to Atlanta,

{\an8}I come by and say
"“hello" ” to my mother.

{\an1}And now I get to say "“hello" ”
to my mother and my brother.

{\an1}I am proud of having grown
up in Atlanta, Georgia.

{\an1}I grew up in the first
public housing project

{\an1}for black people in America.

{\an1}My father, very committed
to going to work,

{\an1}gettin' there on time,

and then workin'
later that night

{\an1}as a bartender in my
mother's catering business.

{\an1}Work was a big value
in the Jordan family.

{\an1}I can't remember, after
I was twelve years old,

{\an1}not having a job somewhere.

{\an1}I was a head dishwasher
when I was fifteen years old

{\an1}at Emory University,

{\an1}because I was the only
one working in the dish room

who could read.

{\an1}You only came in contact with
white people when you got on

{\an1}the bus and they sat up
front and you sat in the back.

{\an1}I remember catching a streetcar.

{\an1}And my mother would say,

{\an1}"“Just because you
have to sit back here,

and they have to sit up there,

{\an1}does not mean that
they are better than you.

{\an1}You are as good as anybody
on this streetcar."”

{\an1}This whole experience, um,

{\an1}convinced me that,
if I got educated,

{\an1}I could do something about it.

{\an1}I'd like a dollar for
the times that I've walked

{\an1}through this campus.

{\an1}When I went to a piano lesson,

{\an1}I came right through here.

{\an1}When I went to the
Ashby Street Theatre,

{\an1}I walked right through here.

{\an1}Because I lived
straight that way.

This is your neighborhood.


{\an1}And one time Benjamin Mays
is leaving his house,

{\an1}walking through the campus,

and I'm twenty feet behind him.

{\an1}And he's walking like this.

{\an1}So I walked like that.
It's the absolute truth.

{\an1}All of the presidents in
the Atlanta University center

{\an1}were people to
whom I looked up as a kid:

{\an1}President Mays and Morehouse,

{\an1}President Rufus Clement
at Atlanta University,

President Brawley
at Clark College.

{\an1}The proximity had a big
influence on me and what I

wanted to be.

{\an1}Every Sunday morning I
looked forward to walking to

{\an1}St. Paul AME Church with
my father and my brothers.

{\an1}Whenever I am home in
Atlanta on a Sunday,

{\an1}I come to St. Paul.

{\an1}'‘Cause this is home.

{\an1}Now, right back here is a
pew named for my mother.

{\an1}When I went to Europe for
the first time and I was, uh,

{\an1}I forget where I was, but
I bought a fan, you know,

{\an1}and gave it to her.

{\an1}And so she would come
and sit on her pew and,

{\an1}and the other sister would say,

{\an1}"“Sister, where'd
you get that fan?"”

{\an1}She says, "Vernon
brought it from Europe."”


She loved it.

{\an1}She was an unlearned,

{\an1}unlettered black
women from the South,

{\an1}with a Ph.D. in life.

{\an1}I started elementary
school at Walker Street School

{\an1}in the first grade.

{\an1}After the first month
my mother was president

of the PTA.

{\an1}She then became
president of the State PTA

{\an1}for colored children.

{\an1}JORDAN: I could
have gone to Howard,

I could have gone to Morehouse.

{\an1}But I had been to
DePauw right after I

{\an1}graduated high school.

{\an1}I knew that I was going to be
the only black in my class.

{\an1}I wanted to do
something different.

{\an1}I wanted to be
in another challenging,

{\an1}boring almost, setting.

{\an1}My mother wrote me a note.

{\an1}"“Dear Man"”,
she called me, "“Man."”

{\an1}And she called me "“Man"”

{\an1}because young white men
would call my father "“boy."”

{\an1}And she wanted me to
know that I was a man.

{\an1}She said, "“Dear Man, we want
you to go to college wherever

{\an1}you want to go to college.

{\an1}But it may be a better thing
for you to go to Howard.

{\an1}You'd be with your own people,

{\an1}and you might be more
suited academically."”

So I come home, I read my note.

{\an1}I say, "“Mama,
I'm goin' to DePauw."”

{\an1}She said, "“All right.
Then we'll take you."”

{\an1}PHOTOGRAPHER: Beautiful.

{\an1}(overlapping chatter).

{\an1}GRADUATE: Yeah, I wanna try.

{\an1}Could I get a picture
with you at some point,

Mr., Mr. Jordan?

{\an1}OFFICIAL: Step right in there.


{\an1}GRADUATE: Yes, yes, please.

{\an1}Thank you very much.

{\an7}(overlapping chatter)

{\an7}JORDAN: I love
this place, DePauw.

{\an1}While I learned a lot here,
I also taught a lot,

{\an1}just by the very
fact of my presence.

{\an1}That's in part because I
was the only black student

{\an1}in my class, one of
only five enrolled at DePauw

at the time.

{\an1}My roommates were
two white Midwesterners.

{\an1}They were seniors and best
friends and planned to room

{\an1}together their senior year.

{\an1}But when they showed
up at 106 Longden Hall,

{\an1}I was already there for
freshman orientation week.

{\an1}When they walked into that
room and saw me sitting there,

the look on their
faces said it all,

{\an1}"“What have we gotten
ourselves into now?"”

{\an1}They were not
hostile or impolite.

{\an1}We coexisted for three weeks.

{\an1}Then one night I came
in from the library,

{\an1}and they were in the room
in deep conversation.

I spoke to them, and one said,

{\an1}"“We've been talking about you."”

{\an1}And I said then,
"“What have you concluded?"”


And they said almost in unison,

{\an1}"“We have concluded that you
are no different than we are.

{\an1}You go to sleep at your desk.

You snore."


{\an1}"“You sing in the shower.

{\an1}You get mail and you get
cookies and cakes from home.

{\an1}You play basketball, and
you drink beer and whisky."”


{\an1}For three years I was the
head waiter at Longden Hall.

{\an1}And when Richard Nixon
came in 1956,

{\an1}I was given the honor of
serving the head table.

{\an1}That photograph of me
with the pitcher in my hand

{\an1}just over Richard Nixon

{\an1}was a photograph
that, years later,

{\an1}President Nixon invited
me to the Oval Office.

{\an1}And my gift to him was to
show him that photograph,

which he loved.

{\an1}And he loved it because he said,

{\an1}"“Vernon, I was a
waiter in college, too."”

{\an1}He signed the
picture, and I said,

{\an1}"“Mr. President, what you
need to understand about this

{\an1}photograph is that it was
taken when both of us were on

our way up."”

{\an1}JORDAN: I went to law school
out of some sense of mission.

{\an1}I went to the Howard
Law School in particular

{\an1}because of its national
reputation in civil rights,

{\an1}uh, because of its, uh,

{\an1}Professor Jim Nabrit
initiated the person who

{\an1}is now president
of the University...

MAN: Yeah...

{\an1}JORDAN: Initiated the first
schools in civil rights and

{\an1}who, uh, taught me
constitutional law which is

{\an1}one of the great
privileges of my life.

I get to Howard.

I'm a freshman.

{\an1}And there's a lecture
by Thurgood Marshall.

{\an1}And I, I cannot tell you
what it felt like to walk

{\an1}into the moot courtroom and
hear Thurgood Marshall talk.

{\an1}I knew that I was
in the right place.

Howard University School of Law,

{\an1}it was a place where the most
successful litigation strategy

{\an1}in American legal
history was put together.

{\an1}NAACP Legal Defense Fund with
Thurgood Marshall had come

{\an1}through and begun to
have a series of victories

{\an1}that led up to Brown.

{\an1}In the immediate
post-Brown period,

{\an1}Vernon Jordan is
going to law school,

{\an1}learning how to take these
victories that were more than

{\an1}just case studies, but
actually a road map for future

{\an1}victories in other places.

{\an1}JORDAN: All of their
dry runs were in the

Howard University
moot courtroom.

{\an1}As students we would,
during the breaks,

{\an1}stand four feet away so we
could hear what they were

{\an1}talkin' about as they
assessed the arguments.

{\an1}And my ultimate experience
as a young lawyer,

Wiley Branton,

{\an1}who was the lawyer for
the Little Rock Nine,

{\an1}moved to my admission to
the U.S. Supreme Court.

{\an1}And when I took my hand
down after being sworn in,

{\an1}I looked directly at
Thurgood Marshall,

{\an1}and Thurgood Marshall,

{\an1}from the bench
of the Supreme Court,

{\an1}winked his eye at me.

{\an1}My mother said, "“That was
the laying on of hands."”

{\an1}I came home out of
some sense of mission,

{\an1}feeling that, uh,
I'd come back south,

{\an1}I could do something
about the problem.

{\an1}I began my
law career working for

{\an1}Donald L. Hollowell,

{\an1}who was then the prominent
civil rights lawyer in Atlanta,

for $35 a week.

{\an1}And I didn't go to
the office my first day.

{\an1}I went straight to the
Atlanta Municipal Court to get

{\an1}students from the Atlanta
Prison Center out of jail.

{\an1}HUNTER-GAULT: Hollowell went
where angels feared to tread.

{\an8}You know, you
look back over it now.

{\an7}But I mean, you're going
into a place where people

{\an8}have been hung by
the Ku Klux Klan,

{\an8}and their houses
have been burned.

It was dangerous.

{\an1}HOLLOWELL: Uh,
you have asked me,

{\an1}what other plans do we
have in connection with Reverend

{\an1}Martin Luther King's release.

{\an1}Of course, this would depend
upon whether or not the court

{\an1}granted our motion to vacate.

{\an1}JORDAN: The first case
that I was involved in with

{\an1}Don Hollowell was eight
weeks after law school.

{\an1}I was with Nathaniel Johnson
the night before he went to

{\an1}the electric chair, because
there were no black lawyers in

{\an1}Augusta, Georgia, in 1959.

{\an7}GATES: When was
the first time I ever

{\an7}saw Vernon Jordan?

{\an7}I saw Vernon Jordan on a

{\an7}black and white TV set
when I was,

{\an7}eleven years old.

{\an1}There was a tall, handsome
black man walking next to a

young black coed.

{\an1}He was escorting her through
this, a wall of hostility.

{\an1}HUNTER-GAULT: I didn't get
involved in civil rights until

{\an1}my senior year in high school.

{\an1}They came to our school
and asked our principal that,

{\an1}did they have any top
students who could apply

{\an1}to the local white college.

{\an1}Hamilton Holmes was
the first in our class.

{\an1}He wanted to be a doctor.

{\an1}I looked at the curriculum.

{\an1}I wanted to be a journalist.

{\an1}And that was the
beginning of our journey,

not necessarily to be pioneers,

{\an1}but to realize our dreams.

{\an1}We had won, and we were
gonna claim our victory.

{\an1}It was my mother, Vernon
and me, and, of course,

{\an1}we were surrounded by all of
the reporters and students

{\an1}yelling ugly racial epithets.

{\an1}Vernon was very serious
and very determined.

{\an1}So I didn't pay much attention
to him when we first met.

He was focused.

{\an1}He was focused on his mission.

{\an1}FAUNTROY: He understood that
there were television cameras

{\an1}that were there recording.

And what we know,

{\an8}broadcasting images
around the country on

{\an8}the nightly news
tells a story that is

{\an8}difficult to ignore.

{\an1}I'm here, I have agency,
I have humanity,

{\an1}and I have dignity.

{\an1}And you all are going to
have to deal with that,

because I'm not going anywhere.

{\an1}HUNTER-GAULT: We were focused.

{\an1}I'm here to do a job,

{\an1}and I'm gonna get this job done.

{\an1}All of the rest of that
just faded away, to go forth,

go forward, and
get the job done.

{\an1}JORDAN: In 1961 the NAACP
offered me a job as the

{\an1}Georgia field director.

{\an1}I was organizing, and
I was rehabilitating branches

{\an1}that had gone down.

{\an1}My first year my
membership results were the

{\an1}best in the South.

{\an1}I had the same job
in Georgia that Medgar

{\an1}had in Mississippi.

{\an1}But he was older than me,
and he had been doing the

job much longer.

{\an1}Medgar and I became
very good friends.

{\an1}MAN: Why do you feel
that it is important for

Negroes to vote?

{\an1}EVERS: For example,
here in Jackson,

{\an1}there is not one
single Negro policeman.

{\an1}Uh, there are some 60,000
Negroes who live in the,

{\an1}in Jackson, Mississippi,
with no, uh, Negroes

{\an1}represented on the police force.

{\an1}JORDAN: Very charismatic
and totally unafraid.

{\an1}EVERS: I have had a number
of threatening calls,

{\an1}people calling me, saying
that they were gonna kill me,

{\an1}uh, saying that they were
gonna blow my home up,

{\an1}and, uh, saying
that I only had a few

hours to live.

{\an1}JORDAN: That spring
I called him up, and I said,

{\an1}"“Medgar, I'm leaving.

{\an1}I'm gonna work for the
Southern Regional Council."”

{\an1}He said, "“Vernon,
that's what you should do.

{\an1}But I can't leave."”

{\an1}And then he was assassinated.

{\an1}REPORTER: NAACP official
Medgar Evers was shot and

{\an1}killed by a sniper.

{\an1}Evers, a 37-year-old
father of three and a veteran,

{\an1}was buried in
Arlington National Cemetery.

{\an1}JORDAN: Medgar knew
what was in store,

{\an1}and left us too early.

{\an1}(disco music plays)

{\an1}In 1970 I was offered the job
as executive director of the

{\an1}United Negro College Fund,
which meant I had to leave

{\an1}Atlanta and move to New York.

{\an1}Achievement, success, record,

{\an1}making a real difference
in the life of this nation,

{\an1}is a story of
colleges within the

{\an1}United Negro College Fund.

{\an1}When I got to New York,
my most enthusiastic and

{\an1}committed mentor
was Whitney M. Young.

{\an1}Whitney has never
gotten his just due.

He revitalized the Urban League.

{\an1}YOUNG: My only plea is that,

{\an1}if we must polarize
in this country,

{\an1}then let us no longer
polarize on the basis of

{\an1}race or religion
or economic status.

{\an1}But let us polarize on the
basis of decent people versus

indecent people,
between people...

{\an1}JORDAN: The black
power structure in New York

{\an1}didn't like it that Whitney

{\an1}came from Atlanta to take
over the Urban League,

{\an1}and they were not consulted.

{\an1}And then this kid comes from
Atlanta to take over the

{\an1}College Fund and raise
more money than had

ever been raised.

{\an1}MAN: The United Negro College
Fund has helped black students

{\an1}help get an education.

{\an1}But today there just isn't
enough money, and tomorrow...

{\an1}PROFESSOR: We're sorry, but
this course has been canceled.

MAN: Please don't
let this happen.

{\an7}A mind is a terrible
thing to waste.

{\an1}JORDAN: A year after I
got to New York to run

{\an1}the College Fund,
Whitney Young died.

{\an1}And I was asked to
be his successor.

{\an1}No man can enter lightly
upon the task of carrying the

{\an1}mission to which Whitney Young
brought such unique wisdom,

{\an1}effectiveness, and grace.

{\an1}I accept, not because of the
honor of succeeding a great man,

{\an1}but out of a deep sense
of duty and responsibility to

{\an1}use whatever talents and
abilities I have to help black

{\an1}people in America achieve
their rightful and just place

in this society.

My approach will be my approach.

{\an1}And, uh, whatever, uh,

{\an1}however that may be
interpreted in terms of

{\an1}whether it's moderate or,

{\an1}or radical or conservative,
that's not for me to judge.

{\an1}It is for the
Urban League board,

{\an1}the Urban League constituency,
and black people and white

{\an1}people generally to, to,
to, to judge what kind of

{\an1}leadership that will be.

{\an1}FAUNTROY: The
National Urban League is a

{\an1}civil rights organization.

{\an1}And over time it added to
its advocacy to be involved

{\an1}in lobbying on public
policy changes.

{\an1}JORDAN: I was the first
non-social worker who headed

{\an1}up the Urban League.

{\an1}I thought like I was trained,
like a lawyer.

{\an7}CROWD: Off the pigs!

{\an7}♪ GROUP: No more
brothers in jail. ♪♪

{\an7}CROWD: Off the pigs!

{\an7}♪ GROUP: Revolution has come.

{\an7}CROWD: Off the pigs!

{\an7}♪ GROUP: Revolution has come. ♪

{\an7}JORDAN: When I arrived
at the Urban League,

{\an7}Martin Luther King, Jr.

{\an8}had been dead for three years.

{\an7}The NAACP had lost
some of its clout,

{\an7}taking a back seat to
the strident tone of the

{\an7}black power movement.

{\an7}♪ GROUP: Black is beautiful! ♪♪

{\an7}JORDAN: There was the notion
that there had to be a leader of

{\an7}the black community.

{\an7}What single individual would
step up and take the mantle of

{\an7}Martin Luther King, Jr.?

{\an7}This was very much in
the mind set of the times.

{\an7}BROWN: Can black people
survive culturally and

{\an7}physically in America?

{\an7}Can we ever be a part of the
existing white institutions?

{\an7}Or should we be
developing our own?

{\an1}Can we as a people develop
solutions to our dilemma fast

{\an1}enough to counteract the
present rate of growth of the

{\an1}oppressive factors built
into this society by

{\an1}institutional white racism?

{\an1}As black people,
we must deal with the issues.

Is it too late?

{\an1}["“A Black Journal Special" ”
theme music plays].

Tonight on "Black Journal",

{\an1}Reverend Ralph Abernathy,

{\an1}Imamu Amiri Baraka,

{\an1}Reverend Albert Clay,

{\an1}Mr. Roy Innis,
Mr. Vernon Jordan.

{\an1}CLAY: Most of the panel
is integrationists which

{\an1}is outmoded and
obsolete and will tend

{\an1}to destroy black people.

{\an1}We have got to,
black people have got

{\an1}to drive integrationists,
integration organizations,

{\an1}the black churches and
integrationists to say,

{\an1}we have got to drive them
out of the black community.

BROWN: All right.

{\an1}CLAY: We can't put together
a program that's dependent on

{\an1}dealing with black integration.

{\an1}BROWN: May we...
CLAY: They are the enemy.

{\an1}BROWN: All right, Mr. Jordan was
trying to make a point.

{\an1}And then Mr. Gregory.

{\an1}JORDAN: I think that
Reverend Clay don't

{\an1}understand that the,

{\an1}that those of us who do
take a position on an open

{\an1}pluralistic society,
that we're not going out

{\an1}of the black community.

{\an1}We're not gonna be run out.

{\an1}And that we're there just
like the tree planted by

{\an1}the rivers of water.

{\an1}BROWN: I only have
one more response.

{\an1}INNIS: Whether, you know,
Mr. Jordan and the other


{\an1}would be willing to refrain
from speaking exclusively for

{\an1}the black community.

{\an1}To recognize there are two
goals and agree for us to

{\an1}function and possibly have
a peaceful coexistence to

{\an1}reinforce each other's goals.

{\an1}The problem is the
integrationists in conspiracy

{\an7}to silence the true aspiration
and goal of most black people

{\an7}which is that of

{\an1}BROWN: Is there a common
ground then that anyone can

{\an1}agree upon for the
advancement of all blacks?

{\an1}CLAY: Yeah.
To get some power.

{\an1}Uh, either we escape from
powerlessness and get power to

{\an1}control our own destiny,

{\an1}or we end up the
victims of genocide.

{\an1}JORDAN: I think that that
would be a consensus theme if

{\an1}that's possible, that, uh,

{\an1}a goal of political and
economic empowerment on

{\an1}the part of black
people is, is a, is a

{\an1}desirable goal, and
hopefully an achievable one.

{\an1}I think that the
difference comes...

{\an1}MAN: How you get there...

{\an1}JORDAN: How it relates to,

as it relates to
how we get there

{\an1}and the means by which
it ought to be achieved.

{\an1}Black people have to say...

{\an1}FAUNTROY: Whitney Young
and Vernon Jordan were very

different people.

{\an1}Vernon Jordan took the baton
and moved the Urban League

{\an1}into new spaces in terms of
lobbying and in particular

{\an1}interacting with
corporate America,

and sitting on corporate boards.

{\an1}GATES: Do you know how
hard it was for him to be the

{\an1}first Negro to be
seated at those boards,

{\an1}surrounded by people primarily
with Ivy League educations,

{\an1}who didn't grow up
knowing any black people?

{\an1}CLINTON: He wanted to know
how America worked and

{\an1}how people that he thought
were otherwise decent people

{\an1}could be supporting
politics and policies that

{\an1}he deeply disagreed with,

{\an1}and whether there were
some way to bridge the divide.

{\an1}And he always tried to
find some way to do that.

{\an1}BUFFETT: He has an
almost unique position,

{\an1}because people talk to
him because he's smart,

{\an7}but they talk to him even
more because he's wise.

{\an7}If I ask Vernon for a
piece of advice, uh,

{\an1}I'm going to get something
that's meaningful.

{\an1}LEE: Vernon is a true
role model for all of us.

{\an7}I think, if you are lucky enough
to have Vernon on your board,

{\an1}he does talk to you about,

{\an1}how do you promote young
executives of color.

{\an1}And he's also, uh, been
the voice of reason or

{\an1}conscience for presidents.

{\an1}JORDAN: Presidential wall.

{\an1}And every president since
Lyndon Johnson is here.

{\an1}Here I am with Johnson.

{\an1}President Nixon right after I
succeeded Whitney Young as the

{\an1}head of the Urban League.

{\an1}Well, we got along all right.

{\an1}I said to him, "“You say
something I don't like,

{\an1}I will tell you, publicly."”

{\an1}And that was our deal.

{\an1}Gerald Ford,
President Reagan, Bill Clinton.

{\an1}And here I am with my
fellow Georgian, Jimmy Carter.

{\an1}Jimmy Carter of Georgia came
to Urban League meetings

{\an1}proudly wearing our
equality pin in his lapel.

{\an1}In the short time he
has been President,

{\an1}the sad fact is that the list
of what the administration has

{\an1}not done far exceeds its
list of accomplishments.


{\an1}Black people didn't
vote for Nixon,

{\an1}and black people
didn't vote for Ford.


{\an1}They voted, they
voted for Jimmy Carter,

{\an1}and it is not enough
for President Carter to be

{\an1}just a little bit better
than his predecessors.


{\an1}Sometime in, uh, 1977,

when I keynoted
the Urban League,

{\an1}and he said to me,

{\an1}"“You could have told me
that in, in the Oval."”

{\an1}And I said, "“If you think that,

{\an1}you don't understand
your job or mine."”

{\an1}He understood, I think,

{\an1}ultimately my role as an
advocate for black people.

{\an1}Black people and the whole
process of desegregation and

{\an1}integration are always
the ones that have to

{\an1}give up something.

{\an1}And, uh, I think that
black people generally

{\an1}across this country,

especially in the urban cities,

{\an1}are a little weary of
having to give up for the,

{\an1}for the comforts
of, of the majority.

The true answer,
it seems to me...

{\an1}ADAMS: I went with him on
several speaking engagements.

{\an7}In each of those
cities he made very

{\an7}strong arguments
about economic equality.

{\an1}JORDAN: The lesson
here, my friends,

{\an1}is that members of the white
business power structure

{\an1}are bad politicians.

{\an1}They fail to understand
that blacks will no

{\an1}longer be junior partners
in the old alliance.

Not only...

{\an1}ADAMS: And he was strong.

{\an1}His voice was strong,
and he was powerful,

{\an1}and he was delivering.

{\an1}I mean, he was bringin' it.

{\an8}JORDAN: What you
have to understand, Mr. Hyde,

{\an8}is, you see, I do
not trust white people in

{\an7}the South with my rights.

{\an1}Masses of black people...

{\an1}ADAMS: But I said to him,
I sad, "“Dad, you know,

{\an1}don't you get worried
saying stuff like this to

{\an1}all these white people?"”

{\an1}He said,
"“No. You gotta say it.

{\an1}You gotta,
you gotta tell it."”

{\an1}And I said, "“Wow."”

{\an1}I mean, it's just, you know,

{\an1}"“Don't you worry
somebody's gonna try

to hurt you?"”

{\an1}Two weeks later...

{\an7}JORDAN: I did not know
what had happened.

{\an8}I did not know why it happened.

{\an7}When I was on the ground

{\an1}bleeding, I was saying,

{\an1}"“I have to be in
Houston tomorrow."”

{\an1}I did not know that

{\an1}I was not going to
Houston until I woke up

{\an1}after the operation.

{\an1}ADAMS: We got to the hospital.

{\an1}He just had so many, uh,

tubes and wires all around him.

{\an1}But they let us go up and,
you know, touch his hand.

{\an1}And I stroked his head
and told him I was there.

{\an1}JORDAN: I did not know
what my future was.

{\an1}And when I was in the
hospital for 98 days,

{\an1}I was only thinking
about one thing,

{\an1}"“What do I have to
do to get out of here?"”

{\an1}CLINTON: In 1980 I lost
in the Reagan landslide.

{\an1}It was a tough year for
me and, uh, Hillary,

{\an1}and a much tougher
year for Vernon.

{\an1}That's when he was shot.

{\an1}Sometime in early 1981 he
called Hillary, and he said,

{\an1}"“You got any
grits down there?"”


{\an1}And she said,
"“What do you mean?

{\an1}Did you mean New York
or Washington?"”

{\an1}She's, "“No. In Arkansas.
You got any grits?"”

And he says,
"“I, I need some."”

{\an1}She said, "“Well,
when do you want '‘em?"”

{\an1}He said, "“How's
tomorrow mornin'?"”

He flew all the way to Arkansas,

{\an1}because I was the youngest
ex-governor in decades in

American history.

{\an1}And he didn't want
me to give up.

It was like the,

{\an1}"“Life for me ain't
been no crystal stairs,"”

{\an1}like the old
Langston Hughes poem.

{\an1}You know, it was the, he said,

{\an1}"“It's just a
splinter on the stair."”

{\an1}He said, "“You know, you gotta
keep climbing the stairs."”

{\an1}JORDAN: We're here at Akin
Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld

{\an1}where I have been a
senior partner, uh, since, um,

{\an1}since January of 1982.

{\an1}CHENAULT: The way I
think about it is,

{\an1}Vernon was one of the first
crossover artists at that time,

{\an7}someone moving from a
civil rights organization to a

{\an7}corporate law firm.

{\an7}That was a first.

{\an1}MONROE: A lot of people
thought your decision to leave

{\an1}the Urban League now was
deserting an important cause

{\an1}just when it needed your type
of leadership, uh, the most.

{\an1}What do you say to those
who think you're abandoning a

{\an1}vital cause when you've
served all your adult life

{\an1}in order to go make money?

{\an1}JORDAN: Well, uh, go and
make money, that's, uh,

{\an1}that's your own view of it.

{\an1}Uh, I believe that ten
years is long enough in this

{\an1}particular capacity.

{\an1}Uh, I do not believe
that there is ever a

{\an1}good time to leave.

{\an1}Uh, nor do I believe that,
uh, any one individual is

{\an1}absolutely indispensable
to progress.

{\an1}So why do I, I do not
view my resignation, uh,

as abandonment.

{\an1}I view it as a refreshing
interlude for an institution,

{\an1}uh, to get new leadership,
fresh leadership.

{\an1}I also view it as a
professional and personal

{\an1}opportunity for myself
to pursue a course of,

{\an1}of work that is exciting,

{\an1}that is
intellectually challenging,

and that will be
rewarding to me.

{\an1}GATES: We are all looking
this way for the revolution.

{\an1}And Vernon is over here
in corporate America,

{\an1}making the revolution.

{\an1}CHENAULT: I believe his
movement to a corporate law

{\an1}firm brought the civil rights
movement to the next level.

{\an7}PIERCE: One of the factors
that I took into account when

{\an7}I interviewed, um, with firms
was whether there was an

{\an8}African American in the
firm that was of note.

{\an1}Because I thought, just
like many people before me,

{\an1}that I would stand on the
shoulders of that other

{\an1}already successful individual.

{\an1}Um, and this firm had Vernon.

{\an1}If you think about what the
movement was about, equality,

{\an1}equal opportunity, I look
at Vernon, and I think,

{\an1}"“Boy, that's, that's
what we want to achieve."”

{\an1}JORDAN: That have
been coming since 1982,

{\an1}and I'm almost 83 years old.

I like it.


It's very simple.

{\an1}The thought of retirement
does not excite me.

{\an1}MAN: Yeah I wish he'd slow down
a little bit, actually.


{\an1}I think his schedule and
his desire to keep at it

{\an1}every day fuels him.

{\an1}JORDAN: Diplomatic row here.

{\an1}Now this street right
here to the left,

{\an1}at the end of that street on
the right hand side is where

{\an1}the Clinton's have a house.

{\an1}Now this house right here,

{\an1}that's where
Kelly Ann Conway lives.

{\an1}WOMAN: Did she
come say "Hi" to you?

{\an1}JORDAN: I welcomed her
to the neighborhood and said

{\an1}"“hello" ” and all that.

(fire crackles)

{\an1}Sometimes when I'm sittin'
down here at the fire I think,

{\an1}"“This is a long way
from University Homes."

{\an1}The housing project
where I grew up.

Long way.

{\an1}JACOBS: Vernon joined
Lazard in January of 2000.

{\an1}It was really fortunate,
because when Vernon arrived

{\an1}the office that he took
was literally next to mine.

{\an7}And I had the great
fortune of just being close

{\an7}to him whenever he
was here which was

{\an7}four days a week.

{\an1}He kind of adopted me.

{\an1}And he became a real
friend obviously, but also,

{\an1}very importantly, a
mentor to me over that whole

period of time.

{\an1}JORDAN: There he is.

{\an1}(overlapping chatter).

MAN: Thank you.

{\an1}JORDAN: This is what
it's all about here.

{\an1}LEWIS: My assistant will say,

{\an1}"“Vernon is
coming up to see you."”

{\an1}Well, I know that will
mean fifteen minutes from now,

{\an7}because Vernon will stop and
engage, uh, with everybody.

{\an7}Vernon knows something about
almost everybody that he

{\an8}passes in the halls.

{\an1}And he has a word or
two to say to everybody.

{\an1}MAN: The Washington Post
has that too.

{\an1}KOOPERSMITH: I would not be
sitting in the chair as chair

{\an7}of this law firm if it
was not for Vernon Jordan.

{\an7}I mean, I have, uh, zero
doubt that his mentorship

{\an7}is how I got here.

{\an1}In 1981 there were
23,000 of us at the

{\an1}Philadelphia Civic Center,

{\an1}and he was my
commencement speaker when I

{\an1}graduated from the
University of Pennsylvania.

{\an1}And fast-forward
fifteen years later,

{\an1}I joined Akin Gump and
attended my first partner

{\an1}retreat, and saw
him across the room,

{\an1}and walked straight
across and said,

{\an1}"“Mr. Jordan, you will not
remember me from the 20,000,

{\an1}23,000 people at the
Philadelphia Civic Center.

{\an1}But I remember
every word you said."”

{\an1}And Vernon being Vernon, said,

{\an1}"“Young lady,
I don't know who you are.

I don't know what your name is.

{\an1}But you are my new best friend "”"

And it was true.

{\an1}He shepherded me
through that meeting,

{\an1}introduced me to everyone
of importance at the firm,

and here we are.

{\an1}CHENAULT: I very proudly hold
myself out as a mentee of

Vernon Jordan.

{\an1}In 1984 Vernon was on
the board of directors

{\an1}at American Express,

{\an1}and evidently my name
came up at the board meeting

{\an1}as someone who
had very high potential.

{\an1}And so Vernon
called me and said,

{\an1}"“Ken, this is Vernon Jordan."”

{\an1}And he asked me if
I would come to breakfast.

{\an1}And the breakfast,
it lasted for five hours.

{\an1}And he talked to me
about my aspirations,

{\an1}but he also told me his story.

{\an1}And it was wonderful and
certainly my journey in the

{\an1}corporate world I
encountered prejudice,

{\an1}and I encountered skepticism
and whether I belonged.

{\an1}But I think the mentality
that I had was very much a

{\an1}mentality that I had
a right to be there.

{\an1}And I was going to push
forward and deal with

{\an1}obstacles because of leaders
like Vernon Jordan who had

{\an1}demonstrated throughout
their life that obstacles were

to be overcome.

{\an1}JORDAN: The feeling is,
I had a lot of help.

{\an1}And so I'm here to
help others if I can.

{\an1}CLINTON: I never saw
him turn down an opportunity

{\an1}to try to help a
young person who needed help,

{\an1}including to give good advice.

So there are,

{\an1}quite apart from
all these jobs he's held and

{\an1}all these board
positions he's held and all

{\an1}these things he's done,

{\an1}and the fact that he
was very close to me,

{\an1}so close that he turned
down my plea to him

{\an1}to become attorney general.

{\an1}I said, "“Vern, you
can become the first

{\an1}black attorney general."”

{\an1}He said, "“Yeah." ” He said,

{\an1}"“And I know exactly what
the job is."” And he said,

{\an1}"“What else, what's gonna
happen when you need somebody

{\an1}to just talk to you?"”

{\an1}And he said, "“I, I don't
want to be in the government.

{\an1}I want to be your friend."”

{\an1}JORDAN: When I testified
in the impeachment trial

of Bill Clinton,

{\an1}my testimony was not
put in the record,

{\an1}because the Republicans
kept it out.

{\an1}And here is my testimony
that I have framed.

{\an1}"“What was taught to be by my
mother is that the only thing

{\an1}that I own totally and
completely is my integrity.

{\an1}And my integrity has
been on trial here.

{\an1}The President is my friend.

{\an1}He was before this happened.

{\an1}He is now, and he will
be when this is over."”

{\an1}CLINTON: He's a fast friend.

{\an1}He doesn't quit
on people that he loves,

{\an1}even if they fail.

{\an1}MAN: Do I put the
syrup in the fridge?

{\an1}WOMAN: Huh, just put it there.

MAN: Okay.

(phone ringing)

JORDAN: Hello...

{\an1}What do you got to tell me?

{\an1}Do you have a
telephone number for

{\an1}the Paris ambassador?

{\an7}Yeah, well, I'll have
Doug handle that.

{\an7}WOMAN: Uh, what do you have?

{\an7}MAN: Some railroads, money.
How's that?

{\an8}WOMAN: I'll get
you a Monopoly...

JORDAN: I've been
here twenty years.

I don't own it.
I rent it.

I think you only own one house.

{\an1}And if the pipes burst in
January, it's not my problem.


{\an1}That's right.
It's not my problem.

{\an1}I know that I have been
blessed with extraordinary

{\an1}mentors in my career.

Hey, how are you?

{\an1}I am also very
certain that there is

{\an1}no substitute for a
commitment to excellence,

{\an1}hard work, and sacrifice.

{\an1}I'm pretty sure
that that is, in part,

{\an1}the explanation for
whatever I may have achieved.

{\an1}But I didn't get here by myself.

{\an7}NARRATOR: If you
missed a moment,

{\an7}you can watch this
film online and learn more

{\an7}And join the
conversation online with


{\an1}NARRATOR: Funding for
"Vernon Jordan: Make it Plain"

{\an7}was provided by Ford Foundation
Just Films.

{\an7}And by the
Andrew W. Mellon foundation.

{\an1}NARRATOR: You're watching PBS.