Donald Vaughn Sr. had a distinguished career as an officer and deputy secretary in the corrections field before retiring. He received numerous commendations. Most notable of these are the many he received for his remarkable participation as the primary hostage negotiator during a five-day hostage siege at SCI Graterford, where seven staff and several inmates were taken hostage as the result of a botched escape attempt by a number of inmates.
Vaughn died October 23. He was 67.
“He was a great public speaker. He loved to speak,” said his son, Donald Vaughn Jr.
Vaughn was born June 9, 1944. He received his education in the Philadelphia School District. He attended Villanova University and Penn State University. He also had many professional certificates of achievement.
Vaughn began his career in corrections in January of 1967 at the old Eastern State Penitentiary as a corrections officer. Eastern State Penitentiary, which was the model prison for systems throughout the United States, closed its gates in 1969 whereupon Vaughn transferred to the maximum security State Correctional Institution at Graterford.
“He knew the job inside and out. He worked every aspect of it,” Vaughn Jr. said.
After his transfer, and while still a corrections officer, Vaughn was appointed by former Commissioner of Corrections Sieloff to serve on a commission whose task it was to establish a community service center in Philadelphia. There are currently five “CSCs” in the Philadelphia area, along with 14 contract centers which are a direct result of the initiative. In 1972, Vaughn was promoted to the rank of sergeant. In 1975, he was promoted to lieutenant.
In 1976, in direct response to a request by the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners, Lieutenant Vaughn was appointed acting Deputy Warden of the Lehigh County Jail by former Commissioner of Corrections Robinson, where he served until July of 1977.
Upon completion of this assignment and his return to SCI Graterford, he was promoted to the rank of Major of the Guard.
Six years later, Vaughn was appointed Deputy Superintendent for Operations. He served in that capacity until September of 1989 when he was appointed Acting Superintendent. In December of 1989, his appointment was made final and he became superintendent of the largest maximum security prison in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Vaughn held this position until his appointment in 2003 to Deputy Secretary of Corrections for the Eastern Region of the Commonwealth.
Vaughn was a member of the American Correctional Association, American Probation and Parole Association, Pennsylvania Prison Wardens Association and Pennsylvania Association on Probation, Parole and Corrections.
Vaughn was also affiliated with several other organizations within his local community. Vaughn served on the “Three Strikes You’re Out” committee where he worked closely with Vice President of the United States Al Gore and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. He was also past president of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice.
Vaughn was the recipient of many awards from various organizations. In 1994, he received the President’s Award from the Pennsylvania Prison Wardens Association.
Vaughn was a member of the Penn Memorial Baptist Church and Christian Stronghold Baptist Church where he served as an usher.
Vaughn is survived by: wife, Florine; and children, Kwanda, Damika and Donald Jr.
Services will be held October 28 at Christian Stronghold Baptist Church, 4701 Lancaster Ave. The viewing will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The service will start at 11. Wood Funeral Home handled the arrangements.