A Horseshoe and A Rock
The Oakley community was like a lot of other places in Overton County many years ago. A post office was located there, and in one of the homes, a switchboard was maintained by the local telephone company. It was also in that community that Walter and Eula (Reeder) Vaughn raised a family of seven children made up of four boys and three girls. The children in the order of their births were: Eddis, Agnes, Milburn, Cratus, Raleigh, Derward, and Inez.
Derward Vaughn
Derward Vaughn was photographed as a grade school student at Independence School.

Walter Vaughn farmed to support his family, raising crops of corn and hay, and of course chickens were raised, not just as a source of food and for the eggs, but also to swap at the store for staple items. Derward described a typical day on their farm as getting up early to feed the chickens, horses, and hogs, and then after getting those chores done, the real work began. The summer months always including a whole lot of blackberry picking too. The Vaughn children often tried to sell some of the blackberries they picked, but found that was easier said than done, even at the price of 10 cents a gallon, and the reason was no one had a dime to spare back then.

Strawberries were also raised on the Vaughn farm. One summer, Walter Vaughn was concerned about the possibility of their strawberry patch being invaded by moles, and offered the boys a nickle a-piece for every mole they caught. Derward recalls how he and his brothers became not just the best mole catchers in the Oakley community, but he says they were the best mole catchers in the whole world! And if it got to the point the moles became scare on their property, they sometimes fudged a little and got over on their neighbor’s land so they could bring in another mole. Their dad was true to his word, and paid the mole catchers just as he promised he would.

Another way Derward earned money as a youngster was selling garden seeds he ordered through the mail. The ladies he called on didn’t always have money to pay him for the seeds they wanted, but he was willing to trade the seeds for eggs which he then took to the store and sold. He must have liked the idea of going door to door selling things, and evidently some company thought he sounded like a pretty good prospect after he answered an ad to sell refrigerators. Derward told me that until this particular incident, every time he came across a post card offering various types of jobs, he filled it out and sent it off. But he never really expected a response, and he sure didn’t expect to find a man from Nashville on their doorstep one day. The whole thing was just as much a surprise to the man who came to hire him. This city fellow had no idea the person who answered their ad was only 10 years old. Can’t you just imagine what his face looked like when he realized he had driven all the way from Nashville to sign up a 10 year old boy to sell refrigerators?

Deward Vaughn' Parents
A 1940's photograph of Walter and Eula (Reeder) Vaughn was taken in the yard of their home in the Oakley community of Overton County.

The Vaughn home never had electricity during the time the children were growing up, but Walter Vaughn did buy something a lot of families in that area didn’t have at that time. He bought a 1936 brown Chevrolet automobile from Estel Dulaney in Livingston. The car cost $300.00, and was paid for by taking a load of around 500 chickens to the store and selling them. It was a big job just to catch and load that many chickens. But there was a problem with having a car ... it took Walter a very long time to learn to drive. And until he did learn, he got a driver to take the family places. Sometimes it would be a neighbor down the road named Jack White, and other times, it was his son-in-law, Quentin Bilbrey. By the time he bought the car, Eddis, Agnes, and Milburn had already left home. Cratus, Raleigh, Durward and their father all learned how to drive together.

Attending church at Fellowship Baptist was very important to the Vaughn family. Derward became a member of that church at age 13 during a revival service held by Bro. H.C. Geiger who was filling in for another preacher. His baptismal service took place in nearby Ashburn creek.

When Derward was just 15 and his sister, Inez, was only 11, their mother passed away from stomach problems they believed was probably cancer. Following their mother’s death, the two of them took over the household duties, and together, they learned how to cook. One of their first attempts to make cornbread didn’t turn out so well. Instead of using milk or buttermilk in the cornbread, they used water, and Derward’s description was "it came out like a brick." He went on to say that "eventually we learned and got pretty good at it." He and Inez also took care of the family washing which had to be done by heating water outside in an iron kettle, scrubbing the clothes on a scrub board, and hanging them out on clotheslines.

The Vaughn children all attended school at Independence, and it was there the younger Vaughn boys got interested in playing basketball. Since having a real basketball or goal at home was something unheard of then, the Vaughn boys improvised using a horseshoe that was placed in a crack in the wall of the barn, and a round rock served as a ball to try and toss through the horseshoe.

The school rooms at Independence consisted of what was known as the "little room" and the "big room." Derward remembers Pauline Roberts (who later became Pauline Reeder) teaching the lower grades and Clyde Stover taught the older students. Individual classes came up to the front of the room and sat on a bench when it was their time to be taught. The other children in the classroom were supposed to observe and listen while each class sitting on the bench did their lessons from the chalkboard. Most everyone had Sky High tablets to use for copying information from the chalkboard. Although some families had large numbers of children then, the individual classes usually had no more than ten students per class. When it was time to move on from the little room to the big room, that was considered quite an accomplishment, and was something everyone always looked forward to.

The very first high school basketball game Derward saw was held in the Willow Grove High School gym. His brother, Milburn, was playing for Livingston, and he was considered a pretty good player. In fact, some of the folks in the Willow Grove crowd that night asked to see that "Thirty Point Vaughn boy" on the Livingston team they had heard about. Word had evidently reached them that it was nothing unusual for Milburn to score at least 30 points in most games he played. But that night, the Willow Grove team came out on top. Randall Dulworth and E.T. Stover were two of the Willow Grove players Derward remembers in that particular game. In addition to Milburn, two other teammates for Livingston were Kenneth and Kuell Stephens. Although Derward didn’t realize it at the time, seeing that very first basketball game was just the beginning of what would eventually become a long and very successful career for him in basketball.

In the meantime, back at Independence, Derward and a cousin, Junior Vaughn, often found themselves in a lot of trouble at school. After several attempts, Clyde Stover finally caught the two of them imitating a woodpecker on the back wall of the school when they were supposed to be coming back in from the outdoor toilet. On other occasions, they were caught slipping off to the molasses mill Joe Sells had not too far down the road from the school, and another time, Mrs. Opal Stover came and got them after they slipped off to Sam Martin’s apple orchard.

The first grade school basketball game Derward played with the Independence team was at Unity School. That school building was located in the area now known as Deep Valley near Hunter Cove. Arnold Sells was the coach for Unity and playing on that team was a cousin of Derward’s by the name of Willie Vaughn. Just as the game started, Derward tapped Willie on the shoulder and whispered to him, "Tip it to me." Even though Derward wasn’t on his team, Willie did what Derward asked, and the Independence team ended up winning the game. Arnold Sells later made the statement to Derward’s brother, Milburn, that Derward was "going to make a really good ball player." Little did Arnold Sells know just how far this young man would end up going with his basketball career.

At the age of 15, Derward moved from the family farm at Oakley to Livingston where he lived with his sister, Eddis and her family, until he finished high school. He went home on weekends to help with the work on the farm. The first year of high school at Livingston Academy, both Raleigh and Derward made the team. Ebb Smith was the coach for part of the year, and the remainder of that year was coached by Tom Parrigan. Derward’s sophomore year, Elmo Swallows began a successful coaching career that saw his 1946 team receive runner up in the state championship. Both Derward and his brother, Raleigh, were members of that team.

The first job Derward had as a teenager was working for Gene Massey at the Standing Stone Grill. That job consisted of mopping and cleaning up the restaurant after closing, and it paid $12.00 a week. After a while, he moved on up to waiting on tables. One item on the menu at the Standing Stone Grill was a T-bone steak for $1.25. About the only customers who were able to afford this luxury item were engineers and other well paid employees working at Dale Hollow dam who came into the restaurant on weekends. Another job Derward had during his junior year in high school was pumping gas and changing flat tires for Bob Upchurch and Ray Dulworth at their service station on East Main Street. Gas sold for .17 cents a gallon then. Serving coffee at the Ritz Coffee Shop was another job Derward had while in high school.

After graduating from Livingston Academy in 1947, Derward enrolled at Tennessee Tech. He dropped out after one quarter, and in 1950 was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served two years during the Korean conflict and was stationed in Camp McCoy located in Sparta, Wisconsin. Many times during the winter months in Wisconsin, the temperature reached 54 below zero with snow on the ground all winter long. Now that’s c-o-l-d!!

In 1953, Derward enrolled once more at Tech, this time under the GI bill. The following year, he and a girl he dated in high school, Ruby Evans, were married and began their life together. Ruby pursued a career in nursing and graduated from Baptist Hospital as a registered nurse. Their first year together was spent living in Monterey where Ruby worked in the hospital while Derward continued his college education. The next year, they moved back to Livingston and rented a house on Oakland Park, and then in 1958, they built a home on the Celina highway. Ruby got a job at the hospital in Livingston, and continued on there until her retirement. In 1963, their son, Tim, was born. The family later moved to a new home on Valley Drive in Livingston.

Following Derward’s graduation from Tennessee Tech, his first teaching job was a biology class at Livingston Academy. He also taught one class of physical education that year. He started his coaching career as assistant coach for football and girl’s basketball. That began a teaching career of 34 years in all, 32 of those years in coaching. During that period of time, he coached a total number of 870 ballgames and out of that total, there were 674 wins. These numbers do not include B-team and scrimmage games. When Coach Vaughn is asked to pick out his best team or tell who his very best player was, he refuses to answer. He says "to single out one person or one particular team just isn’t the right thing to do."

Following his retirement in 1991, Coach Vaughn makes use of some of his leisure time going fishing, something he has always enjoyed. But as sometimes seems the case, he and Ruby’s plans for what to do after retiring was shorten. After being cancer-free for around ten years, the second time she had to deal with this terrible disease was just too much. Ruby passed away in 2004. During all the years she worked at the hospital in Livingston, she was well known to her patients as one of best nurses any hospital has to offer, and was highly respected and loved by everyone she worked with. Never one to like being in the spotlight, and in her quiet way, she was very proud of not just her husband’s accomplishments in life, but of their son’s as well. Her daughter-in-law, Tonya, and the grandchildren, Savanah and Blake, were at the top of her list of those she dearly loved.

There are many lives Coach Vaughn touched over the years, and the influence he has been along the way I’m sure has made a big difference in those students he came in contact with during his years of teaching. His outstanding coaching record speaks for itself, and is certainly one to be extremely proud of. From the early days of using a horseshoe for a basketball goal and a rock for a basketball, Livingston Academy’s Coach Derward Vaughn has certainly come a long, long way.

1946 Basketball Team
The 1946 basketball team coached by Elmo Swallows.  Members left to right are:  Derward Vaughn; Reed Ramsey; Fred Linder; Coach Swallows; Donald Craft; and Raleigh Vaughn.