Civil rights leader Vernon Jordan testified today he thought...


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Civil rights leader Vernon Jordan testified today he thought he was dreaming when a sniper's bullet hurled him into the air and left him bleeding on the pavement of a parking lot.

Jordan was the second witness in the trial of avowed racist Joseph Paul Franklin, who is charged with violating Jordan's civil rights by shooting him May 29, 1980.


The black leader described speaking at a Fort Wayne Urban League banquet, going home for coffee with white Urban League director Martha Coleman, and being driven back to his motel by Mrs. Coleman.

He said he got out of her car, walked behind it, 'and then I all of a sudden felt myself sailing into the air.'

'I felt a sharp, sudden pain in my back and I thought I was dreaming, that I would wake up and it would be gone. But I knew I had been shot.'


Jordan said he felt only the slug that blasted a fist-sized hole in his back, less than an inch from his spine and did not see his attacker.

He said he told Mrs. Coleman he had been shot and asked her to go for help. He also saw two men in the parking lot running to his aid.

'All of a sudden I began to hear a siren coming. It was an ambulance with people who know something about helping people in distress. It was like manna from heaven,' he said.

Jordan said he underwent five operations in 16 days at Fort Wayne's Parkview Memorial Hospital, then spent 84 days in New York Hospital in New York City.

Jordan resigned last December as national president of the Urban League and went into private law practice.

He told defense attorney J. Frank Kimbrough, 'I feel fine now, thank you.'

Jordan pointed on a map what he remembered of the route to and from Mrs. Coleman's house, where he said they spent 20 or 30 minutes talking over coffee. He said he recalled a motorcycle and a car with teenagers passing them on their return to his motel, but did not remember the teenagers saying anything.


Mrs. Coleman told police that during the drive to the hotel, three men in a car yelled something as they drove by, but she could not distinguish what they said.

Prosecutors claim Franklin was so consumed with hatred of blacks that he shot Jordan and bragged about it. They hope to show the shooting fits a pattern of violence by Franklin, who has been linked to 11 racial slayings in the nation in 1980.

Franklin was convicted last year in Utah of killing two black men who were jogging with two white women in a Salt Lake City park.

If convicted of violating Jordan's civil rights, Franklin faces a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison.

Franklin's convictions and avowed racism do not mean he shot Jordan, his attorney told the jury during opening statements Monday.

'The evidence will show we don't know who shot Vernon Jordan and that is a hard pill for the government to swallow,' Kimbrough said. He said the government is frantic to provide a solution to the shooting and is using Franklin as 'a convenient solution.'

Kimbrough described his client as 'a man who says what he feels and what he feels is extraordinarily unpopular.'


Prosecutor Barry Kowalski, from the Justice Department's civil rights division in Washington, said two prison inmates will testify they heard Franklin brag about shooting Jordan.

He told the jury one inmate saw Franklin pretend to point a rifle at a television set during a show about blacks, and say, 'I'm going to shoot him just like I shot Jordan.'

Kowalski said another inmate watching television with Franklin heard him express approval of the killings of black children in Atlanta, and brag about shooting Jordan.

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