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- American basketball player and businessman
In 1971, Stuart was a small town on the St. Lucie River with one hospital, five drawbridges and no stock broker. It had a reputation as a place where the fishing was good, flower farms thrived and its residents enjoyed a slow, simple pace of life.
Bud Jordan arrived and immediately fell in love with Martin County. He settled into the role of the town's first investment manager. Over the years, what the talented and forward-thinking businessman gave back to his community has become his legacy.
Jordan died Nov. 14. He was 86.
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How Jordan helped improve the area
Floyd Devoe "Bud" Jordan Jr. was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He attended Florida State University and graduated with a degree in accounting. Moving to Martin County was one of the best decisions of his life, he told Stuart Magazine in 2019.
"I was 33. It was a good move," he said.
As he and his family became rooted in Stuart, he saw a community with needs. He set about bringing together people to help make the quality of life on the Treasure Coast better for all of its residents. Instead of seeking public office, he set about achieving these goals by engaging the business community.
He co-founded the Economic Council of Martin County in 1985. He understood a community can grow only if it can diversify its businesses and attract employers to provide good-paying jobs for its residents.
A client of his once donated to more than a dozen charities. When the charities were unsure how to handle the funds, he rallied the help of Chris Bentley, Les Combs, Evans Crary Jr., Mike Crook, Tom Weber and Bill Fowler to create The Community Foundation of Martin and St. Lucie.
In 1991, Jordan led the effort to create the St. Lucie River Initiative to unify business leaders to stop Lake Okeechobee discharges to the river, and to remove the muck from the river bottom. It was the predecessor of the 1998-founded Rivers Coalition.
His accomplishments were recognized. In 2011, he was inducted into the Florida State University College of Business Hall of Fame. In 2019, he was celebrated during the 30th anniversary of the Community Foundation.
Family, FSU and Golf
Jordan leaves behind his wife of 57 years, Marjorie, and three children, Eason Jordan of New York, Michael Jordan of Tallahassee and Kelly Nelson of Atlanta. Marjorie said Bud was a family man first and foremost.
"His bottom line, his entire essence, was about being a family man and provider. Everything he ever did was to make sure his family was taken care of and knew how to grow into people who also served their community," she said.
Marjorie said her husband's three greatest passions were his family, Florida State University and golf.
"He was an avid golfer and FSU supporter," she said. "He always felt he owed FSU for giving him the opportunity to develop into the best family man he could ever be and to help other people around him."
Many people may not know Jordan also graduated from clown school, said Elizabeth Barbella, president and CEO of The Community Foundation of Martin and St. Lucie.
Jordan was a man of principle, Barbella said.
"He was a pioneer behind so many things that had a profound impact on this community. We were one of his brain children. He wanted to do something that had a lasting effect. By creating this foundation, he and the co-founders help charities and strengthen the community by helping families and children in need," she told TCPalm.
His concept has blossomed into an organization with $32 million in assets that awarded $3.2 million in grants and scholarships, 85% of which remained here in Martin and St. Lucie counties, she said.
Another client of Jordan's recently began an environmental fund within the foundation to support research and efforts to help improve water quality, she said.
A painful decision
In 2017, Jordan was at a crossroads. One of the organizations he founded — the Economic Council of Martin County — had accepted a powerful and influential new member. He objected, but other leadership in the council disagreed.
U.S. Sugar Corp. was allowed to join its board, despite its base of operations being located in Clewiston, 75 miles west of Martin County.
"The Economic Council has not put their solutions in the proper priority order. In my opinion, sending water south must be the first solution," he wrote in his resignation letter. He concluded: "It is with a heavy heart that I resign my membership in the Economic Council of Martin County because I believe their major objectives have been compromised."
He disagreed with the council's advertised opposition to what is now known as the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir. At the time, the council position aligned with sugar growers, urging the completion of other Everglades restoration projects before others that could help reduce Lake O discharges to the coastal estuaries.
“I was shocked that they wanted to come in, and was not smart enough to understand what they were going to do," he told TCPalm in 2017. He later came to the conclusion the company wanted to "take over direction of the council.”
Never stopped fighting for the river
Tim Kinane of Stuart will always remember his friend's tenacity when it came to fighting to save the St. Lucie River.
"He was a very unique individual, passionate about anything he set his mind to. He certainly loved our community, our waterways and our environment," said Kinane, who was one of the St. Lucie River Initiative's original members.
"He was the first and only president of the initiative and worked for a number of years to change the mindset of how people viewed the river. Bud always drove us forward to make the river better, no matter who we had to talk to and where we had to go," he said.
That included assembling a report using every government document about the river and Lake O discharges the initiative could find. He told TCPalm the documents piled in a stack towered over his 6-foot-tall frame. Members took the final report to Washington, D.C., and walked the halls of Congress “speaking to anyone who would listen to us.”
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch of Sewall's Point has long-admired Jordan.
"Bud Jordan really reinvigorated the river movement in the '90s. He validated the river as essential for business in Martin County," she said. "He is one of the people whose shoulders we are standing on."
A memorial service for Jordan will take place from 2-4 p.m. Dec. 4 at First United Methodist Church, 1500 S. Kanner Highway, Stuart. To share memories and expressions of sympathy, go to Aycockfuneralhome.net.
Ed Killer is TCPalm's outdoors writer. Sign up for his and other weekly newsletters at profile.tcpalm.com/newsletters/manage. Friend Ed on Facebook at Ed Killer, follow him on Twitter @tcpalmekiller or email him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Bud Jordan of Stuart left legacy of Martin County nonprofits