Jack Vaughn - a Golden Gloves champion, the second director of the Peace Corps and ambassador to Panama and Colombia - died Monday at his Tucson home under hospice care for an aggressive cancer. He was 92.
Vaughn held significant posts during his lifetime but also was known "for his sense of humor and irreverence," wrote his wife, Margaret "Leftie" Weld Vaughn, in an email.
The couple and their two younger children moved to Tucson in 1992.
Vaughn wrote that since her husband's death "emails have been pouring in" from friends and former Peace Corps volunteers from all over the world recalling his jokes and storytelling that brought them much laughter.
Vaughn was born Aug. 18, 1920, in Columbus, Mont., where his father owned a chain of clothing stores, and grew up there, Margaret Vaughn said. In 1931, the family moved to Albion, Mich., where his father had purchased another chain of clothing stores. It was there Vaughn got hooked on boxing.
In a 2008 interview with the Star, Vaughn said he sparred in Detroit with prizefighters such as Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta.
He also shared a story that explained the title of his unpublished memoirs, "Kill the Gringo!" Vaughn, a member of the boxing team at the University of Michigan, and later its coach, took on a few boxing matches in the summer of 1942 in Mexico to get some professional experience.
"My first fight was down in Juarez. I was in the first of a four-round preliminary match. My second (assistant) was a high school kid from El Paso. The crowd began to shout, 'Mata al gringo!'"
"I asked my second what they were saying. He said, 'I think they're saying, Welcome to Juarez.' A week later I found out what that meant," Vaughn recalled.
Vaughn received a bachelor's degree in Romance languages from the University of Michigan in 1943, and that same year joined the Marine Corps, serving on Eniwetok, Guam and Okinawa, and earning two Purple Hearts. "I was wounded three times, all in the rear end," he told the Star.
After the war, he earned a master's in economics in 1948 at the University of Michigan, where he was head boxing coach.
He later taught Spanish at the University of Pennsylvania.
He also boxed to augment his salary and ended up losing the sight in his right eye.
He told the Star that after his injury he went to work in 1949 for the State Department.
In 1961, Sargent Shriver, first director of the Peace Corps, hired Vaughn as regional director of the agency in Latin America. After three years in the Peace Corps, Vaughn became ambassador to Panama in 1964, where he is credited with smoothing the way for the eventual negotiation of a new Panama Canal treaty.
In 1966, he took the top job at the Peace Corps after Shriver became head of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty.
As director, Vaughn shifted the Peace Corps toward environmental needs. "Countries needed people who could train their people - how to run a nursery, do contour planting," he told the Star.
"Jack was a mentor to many Peace Corps volunteers, and he taught everyone important lessons," recalled his close friend Phil Lopes, a former state representative from Tucson.
"I met Jack in the 1960s in Washington, D.C.," explained Lopes, who was in the Peace Corps, serving in Colombia and Brazil. "Jack explained what it took to live and work in a foreign culture; the importance of learning the language, customs and being open-minded to other cultures," Lopes said.
In 1965, Vaughn was appointed assistant secretary of state for Latin America. In 1969, he became ambassador to Colombia.
In 1970, he returned to Washington, and that same year married Weld, who was a Peace Corps volunteer.
He held various jobs including director of international programs for "Sesame Street" and president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
He also worked as a consultant on international development in Central America, South America and Africa, Lopes said.
"Jack was well-liked and he stayed in shape by shadow boxing and running in place up into his 90s," Margaret Vaughn said. She said he also was an avid gardener.
In addition to his wife, Vaughn is survived by daughters Kathryn Vaughn Tolstoy of Montreal, Canada; Carol Blair Vaughn of Costa Rica; Jane Vaughn Constantineau of Virginia Beach, Va.; and son Jack Hood Vaughn Jr. of New York City.
There will be no formal memorial service.
Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at 573-4104 or email@example.com