Vernon Jordan, ex-Clinton adviser and civil rights activist, dead at 85

The longtime civil rights leader advised the Clintons, played key role during the Monica Lewinsky scandal

The longtime civil rights leader and high-powered Washington attorney Vernon Jordan, who became a close friend and adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton and played a key role during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, died Monday evening at age 85.

A statement from his family to the AP says that Jordan died in his sleep.

Jordan, who grew up in the segregated south, rose to prominence as a civil rights activist. After studying law at Howard University, Jordan first fought against segregation with a lawsuit against the University of Georgia in 1961. He also worked as a NAACP field worker and director of the Southern Regional Council for the Voter Education Project before serving as president of the National Urban League.

He also served as executive director of the United Negro College Fund.

President Bill Clinton, Vernon Jordan 2000 Presidents Cup - October Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia, U.S. PGA TOUR Archive via Getty Images

President Bill Clinton, Vernon Jordan 2000 Presidents Cup - October Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia, U.S. PGA TOUR Archive via Getty Images (Getty Images)

Jordan worked closely on civil rights issues with presidents from Lyndon Johnson in the 1960’s to Barack Obama during the past decade. He was particularly close with the Clintons, advising then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton during his successful 1992 presidential campaign and as an outside adviser during the Clinton administration, including during the Lewinsky scandal. He also strongly endorsed both of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.

Jordan became entangled in then-President Clinton's sexual affair wtih White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Jordan testified numerous times before the grand jury and the House impeachment committee but no action was taken against him.

In a tweet Tuesday, Lewinsky herself tweeted "not sure if it’s appropriate for me to say anything, but i felt sadness learning vernon jordan had passed. i knew him briefly + it became a complicated history – but he was someone whom you never forget. a giant in the civil rights movement. i’m sure he will be missed by many."

The Clintons, in a statement, highlighted that "Jordan brought his big brain and strong heart to everything and everybody he touched.  And he made them better.  He was never too busy to give good advice and encouragement to young people.  And he never gave up on his friends or his country."

They called him "a wonderful friend... in good times and bad.  We worked and played, laughed and cried, won and lost together.  We loved him very much and always will."