Looking Back: Remembering former Ledger-Enquirer publisher Glenn Vaughn Jr.
Former Ledger-Enquirer publisher Glenn Vaughn Jr. died Wednesday night.
He was 89.
Vaughn died peacefully at his home in Greenville, S.C., surrounded by his family, his wife, Nancy, told the Ledger-Enquirer by phone Thursday, the 67th anniversary of their wedding. He was in declining health since he broke his neck five years ago, she said.
Vaughn’s four-decade newspaper career spanned from editor of the Red & Black at the University of Georgia to publisher of the Ledger and Enquirer, starting in 1980, when he succeeded the retired Maynard Ashworth, and concluding in 1990, when he retired as chairman of the Ledger-Enquirer board.
“The Ledger-Enquirer family, past and present, mourns the loss of Glenn Vaughn,” Ross McDuffie, Georgia general manager and regional vice president for L-E owner McClatchy, said in a written statement Thursday. “Glenn’s vision and commitment to our core mission are hard to overstate, and the spirit of that commitment to local journalism will always be a part of his legacy and our history.”
Retired Ledger-Enquirer reporter Jim Houston, who was on the staff from 1971-2007, told the L-E in a phone interview Thursday, “I liked Glenn. He was a good man.”
Houston described Vaughn as having a “professorial demeanor, always thinking a step ahead.” But he also “enjoyed a good laugh and was just pleasant to be around,” Houston said.
As an editor, Vaughn was “first-class and had a good grasp of what was going on,” Houston said.
And when he was promoted into the business end of the operation, Vaughn kept undue outside influence away from the newsroom and let reporters and editors do their jobs, Houston said.
“He was a good leader,” Houston said.
That leadership proved especially valuable when the Ledger and Enquirer merged in 1988.
Houston, who was the first reporter to work for both newspapers, noted Vaughn was the “shepherd” that brought two competing newsrooms together.
“The different staffs didn’t really like one another,” Houston said. “They competed heavily. I wouldn’t say it was animosity, but there wasn’t a lot of sharing. So that’s what made it so challenging, but that’s what Glenn was able to do, and he did it pretty well. It was a good transition.”
Vaughn made a positive impact with his community service as well. He was president of the local United Way chapter and served on the boards of the Columbus Museum, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, and the local chapters of the Boys and Girls Clubs, Urban League, YMCA, March of Dimes and Boy Scouts of America. He also served on the advisory boards for Chattahoochee Valley Community College and Columbus Area Vocational School.
Among the many organizations Vaughn served was Aflac, the Columbus-based supplemental insurer. He was a board member from 1990 to 2005, including the compensation, corporate governance and audit committees.
“The entire Aflac family is saddened by the passing of former director Glenn Vaughan, whose distinguished career as a journalist, entrepreneur and businessman was overshadowed only by his compassion as a person,” Aflac CEO Dan Amos said in a written statement. “Glenn’s wise and caring counsel during his 15 years of service on the Board of Directors was essential not only to Aflac, but to me on a personal level. He was a trusted confidant and great friend during a time when Aflac’s assets grew by more than 700 percent, playing a significant role in solidifying the company as an international industry leader. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his beloved wife Nancy; to his family and large circle of friends. He will be sorely missed.”
Vaughn was born May 19, 1929, on a Newton County farm, the eldest of 10 children. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1946 to 1948. After attending the Henry Grady School of Journalism at UGA, he began working at Georgia newspapers, starting as a reporter at the Albany Herald in 1952. Between stints at the Columbus Ledger, beginning in 1955, he went across the Chattahoochee River to serve as editor and publisher of the Phenix Citizen for a year. He worked for two years at the Atlanta Journal, first as a reporter and then as a copy editor. On the Ledger staff, he worked as a copy editor, news editor, city editor and managing editor.
Perhaps his proudest moment in journalism, according to his website, was his time (1965-69) as founding editor and publisher of the Athens Daily News. There, he not only nurtured a newspaper from its infancy into an award-winning Northeast Georgia Daily, but he also developed a young and talented staff that would become his legacy, including the late columnist and humorist Lewis Grizzard.
In 1969, Vaughn returned to Columbus, not to the afternoon Ledger but the in-house morning rival, the Columbus Enquirer. As directing editor of the Enquirer, he was an editorial writer who advocated for progress in the community he adopted as home.
From the editorial page, Vaughn moved into the business department as vice president and general manager of the Ledger-Enquirer. Later he would be president, publisher and chairman.
Vaughn is credited with bringing the idea of the Page One Awards to Columbus, after seeing a similar program during one of his visits to Miami, where former Ledger-Enquirer owner Knight Ridder was headquartered. In the 43-year history of the Page One program, the L-E has awarded a total of $591,000 to more than 8,400 outstanding high school seniors and teachers in the Chattahoochee Valley.
Retired L-E editorial page editor Billy Winn called Vaughn “crucial to the development and growth of Columbus and certainly the Ledger-Enquirer.”
“I know he would be proud of his record in Columbus, as people who worked with him were,” Winn said in a phone interview with the L-E. “He has an excellent reputation in the business. . . . He knew the community, he knew Georgia, and he knew the South. . . . But he was the kind of guy who always credited somebody else for the things he did.”
In 2015, Vaughn was inducted into the Grady Fellowship by the Grady Board of Trust at UGA’s Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Vaughn’s funeral will be Sept. 4, starting at 2:30 p.m., in the sanctuary of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Columbus, following a 1:30 p.m. visitation in the church’s Stockwell Hall. Interment at Parkhill Cemetery will be private.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.