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Kill the Gringo: The Life of Jack Vaughn—American diplomat, Director of the Peace Corps, US ambassador to Colombia and Panama, and conservationist

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Kill the Gringo is the wide-ranging, action-packed memoir of Jack Hood Vaughn, whose career in diplomacy, social advocacy and conservation spanned more than 25 jobs and 11 countries. A professional boxer during his college years, Jack joined the Marines in 1941, fighting in the battles of Guam and Okinawa during World War II. His rapport with people and facility with langua Kill the Gringo is the wide-ranging, action-packed memoir of Jack Hood Vaughn, whose career in diplomacy, social advocacy and conservation spanned more than 25 jobs and 11 countries. A professional boxer during his college years, Jack joined the Marines in 1941, fighting in the battles of Guam and Okinawa during World War II. His rapport with people and facility with language led to a speedy rise in international development in Latin America and Africa where he drew the attention of Vice President Lyndon Johnson during his visit to Senegal in 1961. Three years later, President Johnson appointed Jack ambassador to Panama when violent anti-American riots there led to a severing of diplomatic ties. As the second director of the Peace Corps, Jack presided over the largest number of volunteers in the organization’s history and the delicate handling of anti-Vietnam fervor among its ranks. After his foreign service career, Jack led the National Urban Coalition and Planned Parenthood during the turbulent late 60’s and early 70’s. A rural development job in Iran ended dramatically with the 1978 revolution, and Jack turned his focus to the environment, advising the Nature Conservancy and founding Conservation International in 1987. Told with Jacks’ humor and humility, his stories reveal an astonishingly varied, lively and distinguished career that lasted 50 years and earned him the nickname Peasant Ambassador.


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Kill the Gringo is the wide-ranging, action-packed memoir of Jack Hood Vaughn, whose career in diplomacy, social advocacy and conservation spanned more than 25 jobs and 11 countries. A professional boxer during his college years, Jack joined the Marines in 1941, fighting in the battles of Guam and Okinawa during World War II. His rapport with people and facility with langua Kill the Gringo is the wide-ranging, action-packed memoir of Jack Hood Vaughn, whose career in diplomacy, social advocacy and conservation spanned more than 25 jobs and 11 countries. A professional boxer during his college years, Jack joined the Marines in 1941, fighting in the battles of Guam and Okinawa during World War II. His rapport with people and facility with language led to a speedy rise in international development in Latin America and Africa where he drew the attention of Vice President Lyndon Johnson during his visit to Senegal in 1961. Three years later, President Johnson appointed Jack ambassador to Panama when violent anti-American riots there led to a severing of diplomatic ties. As the second director of the Peace Corps, Jack presided over the largest number of volunteers in the organization’s history and the delicate handling of anti-Vietnam fervor among its ranks. After his foreign service career, Jack led the National Urban Coalition and Planned Parenthood during the turbulent late 60’s and early 70’s. A rural development job in Iran ended dramatically with the 1978 revolution, and Jack turned his focus to the environment, advising the Nature Conservancy and founding Conservation International in 1987. Told with Jacks’ humor and humility, his stories reveal an astonishingly varied, lively and distinguished career that lasted 50 years and earned him the nickname Peasant Ambassador.

47 review for Kill the Gringo: The Life of Jack Vaughn—American diplomat, Director of the Peace Corps, US ambassador to Colombia and Panama, and conservationist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    I spent a couple of hours Vaughn the year before he passed away. He was feisty and funny then, full of life, and this comes out in his book. Vaughn is candid about others and himself, and the U.S.’s foreign interventions (mostly inept). His memoir does not hold back. Eunice Shriver opposed Vaughn as the successor to her husband, Sargent Shriver, as Director of the Peace Corps because of his views on abortion. On working with Liddy Hanford (later, Sen. Elizabeth Dole), Vaughn writes, “As talented I spent a couple of hours Vaughn the year before he passed away. He was feisty and funny then, full of life, and this comes out in his book. Vaughn is candid about others and himself, and the U.S.’s foreign interventions (mostly inept). His memoir does not hold back. Eunice Shriver opposed Vaughn as the successor to her husband, Sargent Shriver, as Director of the Peace Corps because of his views on abortion. On working with Liddy Hanford (later, Sen. Elizabeth Dole), Vaughn writes, “As talented and ambitious as she was, we were mismatched. I missed her potential, I think, because I was so put off by her arrogance.” Vaughn couldn’t stand Bobby Kennedy’s personality. “For all of his passion,” Vaughn writes, “Bobby had a limited supply of the three qualities I so admired in President Kennedy: a sense of humor, a sense of timing, and a sense of grace.” Sen. Fred Harris, running for President, was a wild one. Of the Iranian religious revolution, Vaughn states that President Carter “provided enormous impetus to the movement by publicly gushing about the Shah at a time when the leader’s empire was crumbling from corruption and human rights abuses. That the CIA didn’t twig to the obvious signs of trouble in Iran ranks high in the annals of gross bureaucratic incompetence.” While in Panama just after the Carter Administration had “brokered” the Shah’s stay there, Vaughn met with General Torrijos whose populism, Vaughn states, “played beautifully alongside Jimmy Carter’s bumpkin naivete.” Of the Panama Canal negotiations, Torrijos told Vaughn that ‘“The first time I saw President Carter at a news conference talking about Panama, I knew I had my patsy.” When Vaughn asked Torijos “about whom he thought was behind the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers.., he always responded decisively: ‘Fidel….the Kennedys were the only political leaders we know who were relentlessly trying to eliminate Castro.” President Johnson, a big booster of the Peace Corps (“our fiercest political ally”), was an outsized personality. During the Dominican Republic intervention, “He became chief strategist, Secretary of State, and Dominican Republic desk officer, macro and micromanaging every aspect of the invasion….working two ten-hour shifts a day….Johnson was a reinvigorated, one-man State Department.” With Vaughn at the Department of State, Johnson would call Vaughn “regularly at five in the morning at my home. His comments usually started with, ‘Goddamn it Vaughn.’ On his more charitable days, it was ‘Goddamn it boy.’ Then he unloaded his problems and ideas for the day, and detailed my deficiencies-a pathetic performance on a TV talk show, or a fainthearted lobbying of the OAS. Before I got dressed, I had my marching orders on about ten different points.” At his Ranch in Texas, Johnson entertained a group of U.S. Ambassadors and showed his disdain for them by asking a question: ‘“How many of you can claim to be on a first-name basis with a school principal or superintendent, a small-town mayor, labor union leader, village priest, or small rancher in the country where you are accredited?’” “There was,” Vaughn goes on to say, “a stunned and embarrassed silence.” The book is well written and filled with interesting and entertaining anecdotes. I especially enjoyed hearing the backstories of Peace Corps administration during his time as Director.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Halter

    This is Jack Vaughn’s story of his many faceted career: the 2nd director of the Peace Corps, brief director of Planned Parenthood, and various posts in the diplomatic corps and, finally, in conservation. Some of it fascinated me; some of it did not. I enjoyed the last chapters of the book most. They had a wit, some of it self-deprecating, which the earlier portion of the book lacked. After I read that his daughter edited and completed portions of the book after her father’s death, I realized tha This is Jack Vaughn’s story of his many faceted career: the 2nd director of the Peace Corps, brief director of Planned Parenthood, and various posts in the diplomatic corps and, finally, in conservation. Some of it fascinated me; some of it did not. I enjoyed the last chapters of the book most. They had a wit, some of it self-deprecating, which the earlier portion of the book lacked. After I read that his daughter edited and completed portions of the book after her father’s death, I realized that the witty last chapters were probably his; the drier, more tedious and arrogant earlier portions hers.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kay Dixon

    Jack Hood Vaughn was the second Peace Corps Director, after Sargent Shriver. This book, published posthumous by his daughter, is a wonderful walk down memory lane for those of us who were part of that era in American history. Jack was forthright, honest and direct in all his dealings, in multiple languages. He minced no words. He loved the Peace Corps and Peace Corps Volunteers, encountering them in multiple positions after his five years of Peace Corps were over.

  4. 4 out of 5

    RACHEL

    Review to come.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elliot Mainzer

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    Bobby Joyner

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    Robert D.

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    Bill Rodgers

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    Jeremy Gonzalez

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    Ladislao

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elena Wulfke-Vassiliou

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julia

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    Rich sayette

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    Wes Loftis

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    Tom Bn

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    Jill

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    May

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    Andrew Letson

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    Debee Sue

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    Elizabeth Costello

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    Inventory

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    Alex Aguas

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    Will Drickey

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    Rare Bird Lit

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    Carmen Tourney

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    THOMAS RYASKO

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    Frederick Rotzien

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    Ms. Reader

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    Exapno Mapcase

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    Katy

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    Brooke

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    Cathyann

  47. 5 out of 5

    Katharine Adams

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