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Epilogue: Bob Vaughn, national news anchor who worked in St. Petersburg, remembered for voice

Bob Vaughn (center) with his grandson James, left, and son Rob, right, all who went into the news business. (Photo Courtesy of Rob Vaughn).
Bob Vaughn (center) with his grandson James, left, and son Rob, right, all who went into the news business. (Photo Courtesy of Rob Vaughn).
Published Sep. 19, 2017

James Robert ("Bob") Vaughn was remembered for his booming voice and gregarious personality.

"He was a big guy with a big voice and big personality to match," his son, Rob Vaughn, said.

"I always thought of him as larger than life. So leave it to him to be born in a South Carolina snowstorm and die in a hurricane."

Bob Vaughn, whose radio and TV career spanned more than three decades, died at 87 on Sept. 11 in Palm Harbor.

At 17, Mr. Vaughn began working as a DJ and radio announcer in his hometown of Spartanburg, S.C. before moving to North Carolina, after a high school band director encouraged him to look into radio because of his voice.

"Bob had one of these magic radio voices," said Bob Gibson, a colleague who worked with him at WCBS in New York. "A little more than a sneeze from him and you kind of get that impression."

"Mellifluous," said Roslyn Brendzel, a writer who worked with him at WCBS.

Rob said his dad had a classic baritone voice.

"Dad was a very friendly southern gentleman," he said. "He had pretty much erased all traces of South Carolina in his accent, but sometimes a little bit of that came out."

In 1950, Mr. Vaughn left to serve in the Air Force in France and Germany for four years, but returned to Spartanburg, where he worked as an announcer and the TV host of Captain RC, a children's show. In 1956, he married Ruby Vaughn before moving to Miami as a newscaster two years later and then to St. Petersburg in 1960, where he worked as a DJ and program director for WSUN, now 97.1, and as a TV anchor for Channel 28, WSUN TV.

"Even when I was older I remember people thought it was cool he was on the radio," Rob said. "To my sister, and brother and me, he was just dad and that was just his job. It didn't faze us that much that he was a celebrity or that people heard him that much."

In 1964 Mr. Vaughn moved to Philadelphia and then in 1967 to New York, where he was one of the original anchors for WCBS' all-news format. He and his colleague Jim Donnelly were voted in 2012 as New York's best radio team by Fishbowl NY.

"They were the greatest team," Brendzel said. "Their voices blended beautifully. He was a dream to work for. He always praised the writers."

Gibson said he remembered Mr. Vaughn's sense of humor, even in the workplace.

"Bob Vaughn could be as a broadcaster as serious as a hard rock and he could be 20 minutes later as silly as a wet noodle," Gibson said.

Once when they were working together overnight, Gibson said Mr. Vaughn decided to take an unscientific poll of all the employees there of who the best street reporter was. He announced an anchor as the winner.

"He just kind of wanted to stick it to another reporter who was working that night and thought he was the best," Gibson said.

After retiring in 1988, Mr. Vaughn and Ruby moved back to Spartanburg and then later Pinellas County, where they lived in Oldsmar and Largo and enjoyed playing tennis. Ruby Vaughn died in 2012. Mr. Vaughn lived for the past few years with his companion, Anne Soderman.

Rob said he and his son (who both are named James Robert Vaughn), both went into the news business, working in Allentown, Penn. as TV anchors.

"I almost went into it by default," Rob said. "It was in my blood."

His father, he said, was very opinionated and though it didn't slip into his newscasting, Mr. Vaughn didn't shy away from sharing his opinions with loved ones and he frequently exchanged words with newspaper columnists.

"One thing that shaped me more was his opinions about newscasting and newswriting," Rob Vaughn said. "He would complain when people said things in a clumsy way or use passive voice in the way a story was written."

Gibson said Mr. Vaughn will be missed both as a friend and as a radio legend.

"We lost a great guy and a great radio trouper," he said. "The man did so much, so well."

Contact Divya Kumar at Follow @divyadivyadivya.