Celebrating Black History Month: The unstoppable Benny Vaughn

In the spring of 1969, Georgia’s top high-school runner got his first glimpse of Gator hospitality — and liked what he saw.

It was a warm midday at the Jacksonville Airport, and 17-year-old Benny Vaughn (BSHSE ’85), of Columbus, was doing what all blue-chip athletes were doing that season: going on recruiting visits. Only, this being 1969 and him being African American, those visits had made him uncomfortable. Sure, the SEC schools were under federal orders to desegregate, and their athletic programs were eager to have the Peach State’s Most Valuable Player in their track and field program. But he hadn’t exactly felt at home touring those campuses, where all the students were white and from the same 40-mile radius. Heck, at one SEC school, the coaches had proudly escorted him to a fraternity house’s annual Old South Day celebration, with the brothers decked out in Confederate grey and sorority sisters parading in hoop skirts, under the Stars-and-Bars.


Barbara Drake February 10, 2023