Destin loses a true ‘Southern Gentleman and ambassador’
James "Jimmy" Vaughn wore many hats — husband, father, businessman, mayor, deacon and PTO president — but the one thing he wore the most was a smile.
Vaughn, who served on Destin's first city council and was elected as the city's third mayor, passed away Wednesday at the age of 87.
"He was just a good man and had a good heart," said Dewey Destin, who served along with Vaughn on Destin's first city council in 1985.
"He was a tremendous supporter of Destin and was extremely enthusiastic," Destin said. "He was a good guy to be around."
Destin noted that Vaughn was involved in almost every civic organization in Destin.
But the thing Destin remembers most about Vaughn was his "very happy personality. He was always smiling ... always upbeat."
Lloyd Taylor, who also served with Vaughn on that first city council, was just a little boy when the Vaughns moved to Destin. He recalled the family’s Vaughn's Hardware across the street from St. Andrew's By the Sea Episcopal Church.
Taylor said it was people like Jimmy Vaughn that "made it possible for us to play baseball" as youngsters. He said that he and others gave of their time to go and collect money to put together a team and a field.
"I came to recognize as an adult that he was a royal ambassador for Destin," Taylor said. "He was really a good person. A Southern gentleman — and I say that with deep respect."
Sitting alongside Vaughn on that first city council, Taylor said when there was conflict or a disagreement, "he would try to make people work to a common ground." And when it was over, it was done. He was never bitter about it, even if it didn't go his way, Taylor said.
"I'll always have fond memories of him and his family," Taylor said.
Eugene Walls said he met Vaughn back in 1965 when he started as principal of Destin Elementary School. Vaughn was the PTO president.
"He was a big help in raising funds," Walls said. "He was one of the kindest, fine gentleman and he showed that with all the people he worked with," Walls said. "He was just a go-getter kind of person ...”
Walls not only knew Vaughn through school activities, but through the Lions Club, of which he was president. In addition to being a political pioneer, Vaughn was also a spiritual leader.
"He helped to build the first Village Baptist Church," Walls said.
He was able to negotiate with Bernie Henderson to get the land that Village Baptist now sits on on Matthew Boulevard, Walls said.
Frankie Henslee, who knew Vaughn for more than three decades, said "I always admired and respected him. I always thought of him as a father figure ... he was handsome like my dad. And he was a well respected and Godly man."
One recollection that Henslee has of Vaughn has to do with a story he often told about how he met his wife, Vivian.
"He met her in a dime store," Henslee said. "And he would always say how he met a Million Dollar Baby in a five and ten cent store."
Avon Longo, a Destin Realtor and longtime friend of the Vauhgns, said, "they were mainstays of the community ... just good, good people."
In recent years, Longo said she was talking with Jimmy about the good 'ole days when he would go home for lunch every day, and “Ms. Vivian” would cook him "a full lunch with a dessert."
"He said, 'You know I think she created all her own pies, they weren't from a recipe,' " Longo said.
Vaughn lost his wife more than a decade ago, but "those two loved one another so much. I know Miss Vivian is hopping all over heaven right now. They're together again ... and he's got his Million Dollar Baby again," Longo said.
There will be a celebration of life memorial service held for Jimmy Vaughn this Sunday at 2 p.m. at Village Baptist with a time of fellowship afterward in the Village Coffee Shop. All are invited to honor the contribution Vaughn made to Destin, the church and share memories.
James W. Vaughn
James W. Vaughn joined his wife, Vivian, in heaven on Feb. 6, 2013. He was 87 years old.
He is survived by three daughters, Linda Yeast, Beverly Lutz and Claudia Vaughn; seven grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 10 at Village Baptist Church, Destin.