A veteran of three U.S. armed conflicts who's believed to be a descendent of Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion has died.
Goldfinch Funeral Home in Conway, which is handling arrangements, confirmed Saturday afternoon that Lt. Gen. James B. Vaught died Sept. 20, 2013. He was 86.
Services have been scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at Tilly Swamp Baptist Church outside of Conway, according to a Goldfinch Funeral Home representative.
The family will receive friends in the church fellowship hall between noon and 1:30 p.m. Saturday before the service.
Horry County Coroner Robert Edge said Vaught died at about 5:30 p.m. Friday. He was found in a pond off Old Reaves Ferry Road outside of Conway, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Edge said Vaught was at the pond in a pontoon boat. Vaught’s family called 911 after he didn’t return home.
Divers found Vaught in the pond after a search. Edge said the pontoon boat was about 30 feet from shore.
“We’re assuming he fell off the pontoon,” Edge said.
An autopsy was conducted later Saturday to determine the cause of death and also how Vaught may have fallen into the water.
“I’m sure he’ll be missed by his family and in the political world too,” Edge said.
Born Nov. 3, 1926, Gen. Vaught served in three wars – World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He retired to the Myrtle Beach area, where he remained an active public servant and citizen.
A Conway native whose education at The Citadel was cut short when he was drafted into the Army in 1945, Vaught rose through the ranks from what he describes as “a private nobody” to Lieutenant General.
Vaught finished his education at Georgia State University where he earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration, and went on to earn a master of science degree in government administration from George Washington University, an honorary doctorate from Dongeuk University on Seoul, Korea, and honorary doctorate of military science from The Citadel, and he graduated at the top of his class from the U.S. Army War College.
At one point in his military career, he was commander of U.S. forces in Korea.
Vaught has received, among other recognitions, the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldier’s Medal, Bronze Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with numeral 5, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge with one Star.
General Vaught’s largest command was as commanding general of a combined Korean-United States Field Army of approximately 200,000 people, according to a news release on The Citadel’s website.
After his retirement from active military service, he worked as a consultant to agencies working on the development of next generation avionics, night-vision equipment and radar technology, and has served as an advisor to the Secretary of Defense.
He also remained active in local politics after retirement.
He’s a former member of the Horry County Solid Waste Authority board of directors and was a regular at Horry County Council meetings.
Vaught owned 754 acres of land near Carolina Forest called “the Vaught Tract” that was located within the Lewis Heritage Ocean Bay Preserve. The tract was sold in July to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, which manages the preserve, according to a Natural Resources news release.
Vaught was also an ardent supporter of paving International Drive, which would link Carolina Forest with S.C. 90 east of Conway.
Most recently, he worked to establish the Horry County/Grand Strand Severely Wounded Warrior (SSW) and Veteran Support Center. The purpose of the local organization, “Is to provide homes along the Grand Strand for 400 severely wounded and other qualified veteran warriors so they will be able to receive medical help from the veteran’s center on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base,” Vaught told the Carolina Forest Chronicle in a December 2011 interview.
Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, released a statement along with a photo of himself with Gen. Vaught on Clemmons’ Facebook page.
“I am very sad to report that a local and national military hero, Lt. General James Vaught, passed away last night. General Vaught has been my dear friend since he and his beautiful bride, Florence, returned to his native Horry County for retirement. I am grateful for his lifetime of contributions to our nation, but more so for his friendship and advice over the years,” the statement said.
“If you didn’t have the honor of knowing General Vaught, I have attached a link to some information on his amazing career and life. Please join me in a prayer of comfort for Miss Florence and the Vaught family,” the statement continued.