CONWAY — There was a very noticeable absence at Tuesday night’s Horry County Council meeting.
The closest seat to the podium for public input sat empty, wrapped in a red, white and blue bow and a bronze plate with “In Memoriam Lt. General James B. Vaught, 1926-2013” inscribed on it. The chair was often occupied, usually at the edge, by Vaught who died Sept. 20 in an apparent drowning.
“He felt very fervently that citizens had the right and responsibility to rise and speak out at every opportunity for the issues and causes they believed in, and, as you know, he exercised that right in this chamber whenever an opportunity arose,” said Vaught’s nephew, Johnny Vaught.
Vaught had deep roots in Horry County, having been born in Conway and attending the Citadel in Charleston in the early 1940s. Vaught was drafted in 1945 and retired in 1983. He served with several divisions, including the 82nd Airborne, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as chief of staff for the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg.
Council played a short video in honor of him that had clips of Vaught laying into the council with phrases such as “Let’s find out when soon is and let’s get the damn road going,” and “All we’ve done with this council is find excuses to do nothing.”
Photos of him on CNN and audio of him complaining that he had to raise his hand and not getting recognized, something that happened all too often, echoed through a silent council chamber.
“He was, as the saying goes, a burr under your saddles, reminding you of your duty to listen to you constituents when they spoke on the issues that came before you,” Johnny Vaught said. “But he was also reminding the citizens of this great county that it was their duty to speak out on those issues that affected their lives.”
The county council voted to designate county portions International Drive in memory of Lt. Gen. Vaught – a road project he often griped about for its slower pace. He also had the seat designated as his.
“This is where the general would always sit,” said Chairman Mark Lazarus pointing at the seat. “That will forever be known as General Vaught’s seat... He is certainly going to be missed.”
Johnny Vaught remembered his uncle for his dedication all over the world and in Horry County.
“He was a true hero on battlefields all over the world, leading soldiers of our country and others in the fight to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy here at home and too often take for granted,” Vaught’s nephew said. “Uncle Jim understood that fact that freedom and our way of life had to be fought for and defended wherever it was threatened in the world, but he also knew that freedom had to be preserved here at home and fought for in a different way.
Johnny Vaught quoted General Douglas MacArthur, who said, “‘Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.’ He didn’t know Uncle Jim. did he?”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.