Daniel Porter Jordan

July 22, 1938 - March 21, 2024

Born on July 22, 1938, in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Daniel Porter Jordan, Jr., led a remarkable life. An optimist to his core, he saw the best in everyone and everything.
Dan first made his mark on the basketball court, earning honorable mention All-American in 1956, his senior year at Philadelphia High School. While he was a two sport athlete at Ole Miss, baseball became his better sport, and he pitched for back-to-back South Eastern Conference champions in 1959 and 1960. Despite that success, he never competed in an NCAA baseball tournament because the Governor prohibited the team from playing against integrated schools. Head Coach Tom Swayze—one of Dan’s early mentors—asked him to write a letter on the team’s behalf. Dan promised to make the state proud but never got that chance.

Sports aside, he excelled academically, majoring in History and English and tutoring other students. He also joined Sigma Chi fraternity, trained in the Army ROTC, and served as student body president. For all this, he was inducted into the Ole Miss Hall of Fame. Years later, he joined the Alumni Hall of Fame.

But his greatest accomplishment while in Oxford was meeting his love, Lewellyn “Lou” Schmelzer of Jackson, Mississippi. Their first date was at a Methodist Youth Fellowship gathering, followed by a double date to a drive-in movie. Neither could remember the movie because they sat in the back and never stopped talking. Lou told her parents after that night that she met her husband, and Dan wrote his that he found “the one.” They were married on December 18, 1961, and their romance never dimmed. On his last day he left a dozen roses for her on the counter.

After receiving a masters in history from Ole Miss, Dan began his military career, serving as a First Lieutenant in the Army. When asked to list his three preferences for deployment, Dan wrote: “Germany, Germany, Germany.” The Army sent him to South Korea. But it was there, while part of the 7th Infantry Division, that Dan began his teaching career, teaching American History through the University of Maryland. More teaching opportunities followed in Italy before he finally, at last, found his way to Germany.

After concluding his military obligations, Dan obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in American history and was later inducted into the Raven society. Teaching stints followed at the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was twice named professor of the year, became tenured, and chaired the History Department. He also published three books and over 80 articles, became a sought-after speaker on Virginia history, and taught a course on Virginia history over public radio.

And that’s when things took off. In 1985, Dan was named President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello. Over the next 23 years—with Lou at his side—Dan’s leadership transformed Mr. Jefferson’s home. The foundation created an over $200-million endowment, built the Thomas Jefferson library, purchased historic Montalto mountain, established the Thomas Jefferson Parkway and walking trial, and began countless educational programs.

While he oversaw major preservation and educational projects, it was his personal touch that impressed people most. He loved giving tours and greeting visitors as he walked the grounds. He also wrote personal notes to everyone who made any size donation to the foundation—thousands of them. Current foundation President Jane Kamensky described Dan as “the most consequential president on the Mountaintop since Jefferson himself. . . . To look at Monticello is to remember [Dan].”

Among his impressive list of board service and chairmanships are the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the United States Secretary of the Interior’s Advisory Board for the National Park System, the planning group for the United States Capitol’s new entrance and museum, the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, and Focused Ultrasound.

For his work, Dan received too many awards to name, but he was perhaps most pleased with the United States Department of the Interior’s Public Service Award, its highest honor to a private citizen, and the Commonwealth’s “Outstanding Virginian” award in 2006.

Dan would, however, be the first to give the credit to others. He truly loved the Monticello family and stayed close to them till the end. And in his later years, he built what he referred to as “team Jordan,” people from across Charlottesville that he trusted completely and relied on heavily.

Dan’s greatest gift was making others feel special. Every time someone helped him, whether a doctor or mechanic, he would ask, “What’s your name?” And that was always followed by, “that’s a beautiful name, you’re doing a great job, keep it up!” He genuinely wanted to know everything about everyone he met, and he never forgot a name.

He was the most loving husband, brother, father, and grandfather, and while his family is heart broken by his passing on March 21, 2024, they are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from those who knew and loved him. It was a life well lived.

Dan was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Daniel P. Jordan and Mildred Dobbs Jordan.

He is survived by his wife Lou; brother Joseph Lodwick Jordan; children and their spouses Dan (Teri), Grace (Victor), Katherine (Walker); and six grandchildren, Anna Jordan, Olivia Colom, Robert Jordan, Pablo Colom, Laura Teele, and Porter Teele, all of whom wish to thank all the fine people we consider to be “team Jordan.”

A visitation will be held on March 27, 2024, from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at Teague Funeral Home, 2260 Ivy Road. A celebration of life will follow on March 28, 1:00pm at the University of Virginia Alumni Hall, 211 Emmet Street.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations may be made to the history departments at the University of Mississippi, University of Virginia, and Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.