Conway Arkansas 1964
Don K. Vogan
Log Cabin Staff Writer
Published Friday, May 25, 2001
There was only one Don Vogan, a man who defied a definitive identification, except for one thing -- his conservatism.
But he was many more things than that -- a proud ex-military man, a student of history, a small-time politician, an insurance man, an expert boiler maker, and a writer and author.
Certainly he was a conservative, a condition that developed in his later years since he was in his salad days a political functionary dealing in all kinds of liberality. Some called him a "Yellow Dog Democrat" during the days when he reigned as chairman of the Democratic Central Committee here.
But on his most recent distrust of politicians of every stripe, from the president, governor and mayor on down, he heaped his indignation. He had a jaundiced view of them all, believing that the little guy was getting short shrift especially where taxation was concerned.
He took on the role of watchdog even to the point of trying to get "his man" to run for office. And if they resembled his idol, the late Sen. Mutt Jones in any form or fashion, they got his stamp of approval and they were OK with him.
Vogan, at age 73, died Wednesday night in a Little Rock hospital. He had entered the facility two weeks ago for a heart bypass operation but his condition deteriorated in the days that followed.
At Bob's Grill in downtown Conway, his passing was mourned. Even his detractors had to admit to a feeling of loss for this iconoclastic fellow who held court virtually every day sitting in the same chair in the same place and initiating more arguments than occur in the United Nations.
"You may not know it, but Vogan was a pretty good cartoonist," says former County Judge Jesse Ferrell. "He created cartoons for Mutt Jones' campaigns and they were very effective."
It always appeared to be Don Vogan against the field. There were some who agreed with his tight-fisted attitude about taxes and finances but they were not inclined to follow his lead all the way.
An old friend, the former state Sen. Stanley Russ, said that Vogan was predictable in his opinions, "Yet he'd come up with thoughts that were totally out of character for him and throw you a curve. "He was the epitome of the old expression, 'I'm not opinionated; I just tell it like it is.'"
Vogan was "Old Conway." As a native of the city, he felt that being born here was a badge of honor. And if you were not a native, your views of the city did not count for much, regardless of how long your residence. "We ought to put up a fence around Conway and keep people out," he was wont to say as he shook his head over the influx of "new people" in recent years, blaming them for initiating what he termed ridiculous ideas, such as bicycle paths, soccer fields and other forms of "nonsense." "We should use our money more judicially," he said, taking swipes at the mayor's office and City Council, past and present. He was serious in his reactionary views and he longed for the return of the "good old days" when Conway was a "sleepy little college town and we knew everybody."
Luke Feedlot and Joe Lunch Box and other fictional characters he imagined were tools of his attitude. He used them to lambaste politicians, putting words in their mouths that had the impact of bitter criticism. They would show up in vitriolic letters-to-the-editor columns, spewing stinging verbiage to reinforce his conservative views.
Vogan enjoyed writing. His ventures into the world of book publishing developed a book that won many readers, the story of his Navy days aboard a cruddy supply scow during the Korean War and a compilation of his letters to the editor named appropriately enough, "Dear Editor."
He saw himself as a disillusioned idealist. Nothing was too good for the military, he felt, and he supported wholeheartedly every measure designed to upgrade and make U.S. military prowess greater. His patriotic reaction to any threat to American sovereignty was to "bomb 'em off the face of the earth."
He served aboard USS Curtis AV 4 a Navy Sea Plane Tender in the waters of Okinawa, China and Japan at the end of World War II. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and served 18 months aboard a cargo vessel called "The Skagit," engaged in carrying troops and materials in Inchon Harbor and transporting military personnel and cargo between Japan, Korea and Hong Kong.
He was awarded the AMERICAN THEATER MEDAL, CHINA SERVICE MEDAL, WORLD WAR II VICTORY MEDAL, NAVY OCCUPATION SERVICE MEDAL (JAPAN), KOREAN SERVICE MEDAL, UNITED NATIONS SERVICE MEDAL.
He with a few other organized the Ancient Mariners a decade ago. The group is proud of the monuments and memorials it has sponsored on behalf of our veterans in the area and represent a spirit of patriotism our country needs at a time like this. There are no dues, all they ask is that you come with a hearty appetite and a yearning to hear a kinship and camaraderie bridging the gap from World War II to the present."
Don was instrumental in organizing the first USS Skagit reunion in Omaha, Nebraska in 1986.
His confidants point out that a lot of local history died with him. He was a wealth of information on Old Conway, where he was schooled at Conway High School and later at Hendrix College.
He was well read and spoke with authority on many topics, holding his own in discourses with the intelligencia.
Vogan was a gambler. He enjoyed his many sojourns in Tunica, Miss. He also had an affinity for Oaklawn Park, betting in a characteristic way -- a $2 bet. His limit. "If he won anything, which wasn't often, he'd spend it on a corned beef sandwich and a beer and fuss about the high cost of food," recalled Bill Ledbetter, a longtime friend.
"I can't for the life of me accept the fact that Arkansans are pouring millions into Mississippi when we could have our own casinos and make money for schools and so many other things we need," he avowed often and loudly.
One of his enduring friends, Eleanor Optiz of Conway said of Vogan: "He had the courage of his convictions. He wrote what he believed and he did not hide behind anonymity. He signed his name for the whole world to see. And I admired him for that. He was one of a kind and he'll be missed." Many of his friends contended that there was a soft side to his crustiness, a side rarely seen.
"He had big heart and he genuinely liked people," is the way one friend put it. Vogan, who was a widower, was born Feb. 16, 1928, and held membership in St. Joseph Catholic Church. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and a Mason. He was a licensed engineer in Arkansas and California. He was a son of Thad Lewis and Joe Venus Vogan. Survivors include two daughters, Dana Lou McDougal and Lydia Carter of Conway; a son, Thad Roger Vogan of Mayflower; a sister, Joanne Holyfield of Camden; a special friend in Louise Swaffer of Conway; and five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Father Joseph Deniger of St. Joseph Catholic Church will preside at graveside services at 2 p.m. Saturday. Burial will be in Oak Grove Cemetery. A rosary will be said at 7 p.m. today at Roller-McNutt Funeral Home. Pallbearers will be Stanley Russ, Jesse Ferrel, Steve Simon, Frank Gunderman, James Lock, Bill Nutter, Simms McClintock and Bill Ledbetter.
Don's military life aboard an attack cargo ship during the Korean War is revealed in a book he wrote, titled "Life Aboard the USS Skagit AKA-105."
From Joe B. Havens, Greenbrier:
Published Wednesday, June 06, 2001
On Memorial Day as I participated in services in remembrance of veterans of all of the armed forces in all the wars and for the patriots still serving, I paused to say a silent thank you for family and friends, but especially to a fallen warrior, Don Vogan. Don couldn't wait to enlist in the Navy during World War II and served honorably for a few years, then returned to Conway where he continued to lead, both on the football field and in his interface with youth and his business endeavors.
Perhaps his claim to fame was the founding of the Ancient Mariners -- a group of men and women who had served in the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army and Air Force, who were encouraged to meet regularly, rehash memories, tell sea stories, (that became bigger and better with each telling). Then, too, Don orchestrated efforts to bring some artifacts from Navy ships to the area, often times doing door-to-door fund raising and of course, the famous Navy Bean Suppers at Toad Suck and other parts of our area.
Don Vogan has served his country and community well, oft times outspoken, but nonetheless, verbalizing his right of free speech and freedoms he fought for. The Ancient Mariners continue to be a viable force within the community with (silent) leaders amongst that elite group. Don will be remembered every time we gather and though we miss him, we know he is in a better place. Anchors aweigh, Don, and thank you for all you did on behalf of others, may we who remain emulate those traits. God Bless America.
The Cabin Democrat Archives, Conway Arkansas