Samuel H. Jordan, the former director of the D.C. Office of Emergency Preparedness and the logistics “czar” for five mayors and seven U.S. presidents, died on June 29 at the Fairland Nursing Home in Silver Spring. He was 84.
Services were held on Monday, July 10 at Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast with the pews filled with political icons, appointees from past federal and local governments and religious leaders who sang, laughed and cried over the cigar-wielding, fur coat wearing public safety official who at times seemed to have as much power as the police chief.
“Those of us in public service, if we wanted to survive, we needed to know Sam,” said former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, who sparked laughter as she shared memories of their friendship.
Jordan was a native of Petersburgh, Va., who moved to the District in 1956, landing his first job with the Department of Recreation. He would go on to work in other D.C. agencies and was soon appointed to be the District’s liaison to the Federal Inauguration Committee.
In 1992, Jordan was appointed director of the DC Department of Emergency Preparedness and two of his trademarks were a blue jacket from President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration and a big cigar. Be it Democrat or Republican, Jordan was all in on celebrations and he knew how to pull things together.
“When Marion [Barry] had surgery at Johns Hopkins you would think that Baltimore was in another country,” said former D.C. first lady Cora Masters Barry. “Sam stood in the gap for Marion. Sam stood in the gap for this city.”
When it came to special events, like the National Council of Negro Women’s annual Black Family Reunion, the Promise Keepers “Stand in Gap Rally,” or even a Ku Klux Klan march down Pennsylvania Avenue, Jordan and a dedicated team of officials worked overtime. But their work also extended to offering food and shelter to the poor during hot and cold periods.
Mark Thompson, a former student leader at the University of the District of Columbia, recalled how Jordan prevented things from getting ugly after he and other students shut down UDC for 11 days in protest of the school’s administrators and policies. Ayo Bryant, Linda Boyd, Minister Abdul Khadir Muhammad, and former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. reminisced about Jordan’s role as a mentor to hundreds of youth.
During the service an ensemble sang, “I Call You Faithful,” and the Rev. Willie Wilson said Jordan was a servant who was a “doer of the word.”
Former D.C. Delegate to Congress Walter Fauntroy, along with his wife, were two of the last people to leave Union Temple. Fauntroy said Jordan played a critical role in many of the District’s events, describing his efforts as “divinely inspired.”
Jordan is survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters and a host of other relatives and friends.