Frank J. Jordan, 83

NBC news executive became a dean at AU

Jordan, born the day Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris, survived the Johnstown flood.
Jordan, born the day Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris, survived the Johnstown flood.
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By Emma Brown
Friday, October 1, 2010

Frank J. Jordan, who as an NBC News executive helped shape coverage of national events - including President John F. Kennedy's assassination and President Richard M. Nixon's resignation - and who later helped modernize American University's journalism curriculum, died Sept. 20 at his home in New York after a heart attack. He was 83.

The son of a radio announcer, Mr. Jordan was a newspaper and wire service correspondent before joining NBC in the mid-1950s. He was based in Chicago and New York before serving as Washington bureau chief from 1968 to 1976.

In addition to dealing with national news, Mr. Jordan oversaw coverage of presidential races and was part of NBC's early efforts to use exit polling to predict election results. After retiring in 1979, he became dean of the communications school at American, where he helped revamp the curriculum to prepare students to use emerging technologies.

In 1986, Mr. Jordan became a professor at the University of the Virgin Islands on the island of St. Thomas, where he helped start a journalism program. During his eight years at the university, he maintained a home in Washington and commuted during his time off from teaching.

In 1992, Mr. Jordan was appointed to the Virgin Islands Commission on Status and Federal Relations, which led the public debate on a referendum about whether the islands should seek statehood, remain a territory or declare independence. Mr. Jordan quietly favored independence, but voters chose to maintain the status quo.

Frank Jacob Jordan was born in Johnstown, Pa., on May 21, 1927, the same day Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris after his solo flight across the Atlantic.

Mr. Jordan survived the 1936 Johnstown Flood by taking refuge with his mother and sister in the second story of their family home.

After graduating from high school, Mr. Jordan joined the Army in 1944. He was assigned to Italy, where he began his journalism career as a writer for Stars and Stripes.

Mr. Jordan graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1949 and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He then joined United Press and was sent to Southeast Asia to report on combat operations during the Korean War, as well as events in Japan and Indonesia.

After moving to Washington in the late 1960s, he received a law degree from American. He was a member of the White House Correspondents' Association and the Maryland Delaware D.C. Press Association.

His wife of 36 years, the former Patricia Clifford, died in 1990. Survivors include two children, F. Daniel Jordan of New York and Mary Lou Jordan of Cambridge, Mass.; three grandsons; and a sister.

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