“Sam was a giant, a fabulous man, a great leader, and a remarkable and very creative editor,” Random House executive vice president Kate Medina said in a statement. “He was magic on the page and in person. His elegance and wonderful humor, his dedication to excellence, his grace in all situations inspired people.”
Vaughan also wrote several books, including children’s stories and humor. He collaborated with the late conservative writer and commentator William F. Buckley on “Buckley: The Right Word.”
Vaughan was born and raised in Philadelphia, a block from his future wife, Jo LoBiondo. He attended Pennsylvania State University, and, after serving in the Marine Corps, joined King Features Syndicate as a desk man in 1951. He didn’t remember being much of a reader, but the tall, well-spoken Vaughan was a born seller and his enthusiasm and integrity helped him rise steadily at Doubleday, then Random House Inc.
He joined Doubleday as an assistant manager in 1952 and eventually moved from sales to editorial to president and publisher. Most recently, he was an editor at large at Random House Inc. He retired in 2004.
He worked with a wide range of authors, from Ellington to Fannie Flagg to numerous politicians. He was still in his 20s when he was sent to Eisenhower’s home in Gettysburg, Pa., and met with the recently retired president to help with his memoirs.
“It exposed me to a seemingly genial, seemingly bland, likable individual who had been turned out of office the way we send most of our presidents out of office, which is, in tatters, at a low point in public esteem,” Vaughan recalled in a 1998 interview with Archipelago. “He was said to be the `chairman of the board’ and `didn’t really know what was going on.’ … And of course, he turned out to be a lot more complex than that. I watched the process go on, which still goes on, which is: the Eisenhower reappraisal industry.”
Vaughan called his affinity for politicians “the dark side of my personality.”
He loved working with Hubert Humphrey, remembering how the Minnesota liberal “overflowed with ideas and energy and invention and compromise and ideals, and all that stew!” He tired of political works after editing a book by Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, a top Democratic presidential candidate in 1972. But Muskie’s book came out the day he dropped out of contention and “it sank without a trace.”
“And I’m afraid I burned out at that point,” Vaughan explained.
Vaughan is survived by his wife, four children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.