Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Career: Shifts

BOND: And then after the assassination attempt on you in 1980, you leave the Urban League and go into the private practice of law. You do make the transition from the non-profit to the for-profit world, and these are different worlds. And even though there's players who you've met in the non-profit world -- the CEOs, the corporate people, and so on -- whom you will also interact with in the for profit world, it's a very, very different world. What was it like to go from A to B?

JORDAN: Well, first of all I knew a good bit about the corporate world because from 1972 until I left the Urban League, I was a corporate director -- JC Penney, Banker's Trust Company, American Express, Xerox. So that I had some knowledge of corporate American on an intimate basis beyond going to ask for support. And so, I was a player already. I left Urban League after ten years because I felt that ten years was long enough and that was my commitment to the board. I left secondly because I believed that if the job was good enough having, it was good enough giving up. I left thirdly because historically, black leaders were virtually embalmed for life in their jobs. And this was a new day and a new opportunity, new occasion to teach new duties -- I thought I could leave. Traditional Urban Leaguers did not think that. They thought you either died or retired in office. But I thought that it was time to do something else, to parlay my experience into another sector. I wanted to practice law, and I made the decision to do so. I went to a very big law firm, encouraged by the founding partner, Bob Strauss, and it was a smooth and happy transition.