Obituary: Jack Hood Vaughn / Peace Corps leader in '60s, held diplomatic posts
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Jack Hood Vaughn, who led the Peace Corps at the height of its volunteer enrollment in the late 1960s, died Oct. 29 at his home in Tucson, Ariz.. He was 92.
The cause was cancer, his daughter, Jane Constantineau, said.
President Lyndon Johnson appointed Mr. Vaughn as the second director of the Peace Corps in 1966, after the five-year tenure of R. Sargent Shriver, the driving force in the creation of the corps during the Kennedy administration. Under Mr. Vaughn, the number of volunteers rose from approximately 12,000 to more than 15,500 -- the most in the corps' history -- serving in more than 50 countries. There are now about 8,000 volunteers in 76 countries.
Some politicians were originally hostile to the concept of the corps, especially during the Vietnam War. "The Peace Corps is no haven for draft dodgers," Mr. Vaughn responded in 1966. Its volunteers, he said, are "second to no other Americans" in performing service to the nation.
Under Mr. Vaughn, Time magazine reported in 1967: "A team of corpsmen installed the University of Malaya's first electronic computer; one is a game warden in Ethiopia; Gerald Brown conducts Bolivia's National Symphony Orchestra, and Lynn Meena's televised English lessons made her one of Iran's most popular performers. The majority teach, and the corps has even sent blind volunteers abroad to teach the blind."
While Mr. Vaughn led the Peace Corps through 1969, his resume also includes an array of other influential positions, among them ambassador to Panama in 1964 and 1965, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs from 1965 to 1966 and ambassador to Colombia from 1969 to 1970. He resigned from the foreign service because he felt the Nixon administration, preoccupied by the Vietnam War and turmoil in the Middle East, was not paying sufficient attention to Latin America.
Out of government service, Mr. Vaughn was president of the National Urban Coalition, dean of international studies at Florida International University, director of international programs for the Children's Television Workshop (producing foreign versions of "Sesame Street"), president of the Planned Parenthood Federation, chairman of Conservation International and chairman of Ecotrust, an organization he founded to protect rain forests.
Born in Lame Deer, Mont., Jack Hood Vaughn was one of five children of L.H. and Lona Mr. Vaughn. His father owned clothing stores. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in romance languages, he enlisted in the Marines and saw action in the Pacific during World War II. He returned to his alma mater after the war and earned a master's in economics.
Fluent in Spanish, Mr. Vaughn soon joined the U.S. Information Agency and was sent to Bolivia to run a cultural center. He was later a program director for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Panama, Bolivia, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal. It was while escorting Johnson, who was then the vice president, on a visit to Senegal that Mr. Vaughn came to the attention of Shriver, who asked him to become the Latin America director for the newly created Peace Corps.
While studying at Michigan, Mr. Vaughn also coached the university's boxing team. Later, under the name Johnny Hood, he was a professional featherweight boxer.
First Published November 6, 2012 12:00 am