Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Tucson’s treasures

Citizen Staff Writer

Sure it’s tempting in this, my penultimate column, to let loose on Sheriff Joe, laud Raúl Grijalva and empathize with illegal immigrants.

But our reactionary readers are too easy a target, and time’s running out.

Let’s turn instead to Tucson’s treasures – the amazing array of people who somehow decided, God knows why, to grace us with their presence.

As evidenced by a few of our late greats – iconoclastic author Edward Abbey, comedian congressman Mo Udall and unorthodox artist Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia – the Old Pueblo long has been blessed with powerful, unique personalities.

Tucson grows its own talents, such as native songstress Linda Ronstadt and the late Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero, the father of Chicano music.

And like a magnet, our town draws others, such as Lute Olson and Drs. Andrew Weil and Richard Carmona.

But Tucson also has been home to the coolest of the cool.

Sir Paul McCartney, Beatle extraordinaire, has a spread outside of town, and iconic actor Lee Marvin lived here, too, till the day he died. If you’re too young to know that name, go rent “Cat Ballou.”

Our star-studded military retirees could fill a galaxy: Air Force Brigadier General Tom Browning, Marine Lt. Gen. Bob Johnston and Four Star General John A. Wickham, who was Army chief of staff under President Reagan.

The newest addition is retired Army Brigadier General John Adams, who also headed Arizona Veterans for Obama. My kind of guy.

Back in 2004, soon after I returned to Tucson and started working for the Citizen, I began getting news tips from Sheila Tobias.

She’s an “original” feminist (i.e. friends with Gloria Steinem), a Harvard-educated intellectual, a lecturer, author of at least 11 books – on topics from math anxiety to the new feminism – and a Democratic Party activist.

But Tobias isn’t a feminist in name or political activism only.

I’ve seen her go to great lengths to help promising young women become established in their careers and to introduce a certain columnist to some of the brightest people in town.

She also is married to the charming Carl Tomizuka, a physicist who taught at the University of Arizona.

About a mile north of their home lives Jack Hood Vaughn, right in the heart of our city.

Name doesn’t ring a bell?

Vaughn’s first success was as boxing champion Johnny Hood, sparring with Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta.

He served as a Marine combat intelligence officer in World War II, later worked in the U.S. Information Agency, was in the State Department and then became director of the Peace Corps.

That would be enough for most. But not our man.

Vaughn also has been ambassador to Panama, assistant secretary of state under President Johnson and later ambassador to Colombia under President Nixon.

He headed the National Urban Coalition and was president of Planned Parenthood.

The Montana native did lots of little stuff in between, too – running Pierce Energy Corp., heading overseas staff for Children’s Television Workshop of National Educational Television (think Sesame Street), and working as dean of International Studies at Florida International University in Miami.

Now 88, he’s finally a proud grandpa of baby Eve Vaughn.

He and wife Leftie moved here in 1992, mostly because Tucson reminds them of Guatemala, where he also did foreign service.

You can find him shadow boxing in the mornings, lunching at the Arizona Inn or putting final touches on his riveting and hilarious memoirs.

Vaughn and Tobias are neighbors, feminists, athletes and authors with lively intellects. Yet they’ve never met. I hope to change that.

Of course I don’t have room to include the dozens of brilliant minds at the UA, such as Peter Smith of the Phoenix Mars Lander mission.

Also too long to list are our humanitarians, including the Rev. Robin Hoover of Humane Borders, Isabel Garcia of Derechos Humanos and the Rev. John Fife, felonious co-founder of the Sanctuary movement.

Tucson is chock-full of such treasures, unsung heroes masquerading as common folk, truly the life force of our community.

I’m mystified as to why so many stars all showed up here. But here they are – and you, too.

Reach Billie Stanton at bstanton@tucsoncitizen.com and 573-4664. After March 20, e-mail her at billiestanton@gmail.com.

Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service