The Peace Corps On Day One: #18 The Early Peace Corps Staff

I asked Warren to give me a quick summary of some of the famous early staffers, all men of course, from the first days of the ’60s.

Charlie Peters, for example, who went onto start the Washington Monthly.   “Charlie,” said Wiggins, “was one of those insightful, appreciative, wonderful minds. We didn’t have many exceptional minds in the Peace Corps, but Charlie’s really is exceptional, and what he did with the evaluation function was what needed to be done and it was first rate.”

What about Frank Mankiewicz? Frank would be hired by Bobby Kennedy to be his press person after the Peace Corps. “Frank, given all I’ve said about volunteerism and amateurism and anti-professionalism and all of that, he was willing to drop Volunteers by parachute, and he did it and made it go. He talked the success of it, and denounced the critics and always dealt with Shriver and he’d always end-run me; he always pissed me off. He had a relationship with Shriver and I’d wake up and having been had, just out of the loop. But I had enough loop to survive. He and I tended to disagree on almost everything, but I have a high admiration for this wonderful man.”

Bill Josephson, who with Wiggins, had written ‘The Towering Task’…”Josephson,” said Warren, “was in some ways much closer to Shriver than I was. Josephson was an incisive critic. He worked like a son of a bitch, ground out the stuff that had to be done, understood the legal stuff. He was very important in the producing of that first report to the President and the writing of the Executive Order that created the Peace Corps. He played a key role across the board in the first period and then in the administration of the Peace Corps. To put it politely, he was less than friendly toward everyone when it came to keeping the Peace Corps on the straight and narrow.”

And finally I asked Warren about Jack Hood Vaughn who was the second Peace Corps Director. “I worked more with Vaughn than any other person in my life, four separate long-term assignments, back to back. Mostly I have co-workers; Vaughn was a friend. Vaughn and I traveled at length in Bolivia together, the two of us, when we were both in the ICA mission to Bolivia. He had a lot of Teddy Roosevelt in him. He was a former prizefighter. On the other hand, he’s cautious, conservative and sometimes not terribly involved in some of the broader sweep of things. Vaughn stands up and is counted and is determined. He was a good administrator. He was an excellent person. He was my friend.”

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  • How wonderful and so nostalgic to read these very apt descriptions of some pretty great guys from one of the best himself.

  • Charlie Peters Evaluation Division saved the Peace Corps from some truly egregrious errors; the idea of embedding journalists inside the government at every agency world do much to improve the quality of government performance. today. He is also responsible for incubating at the Washington Monthly some of the best journalists in America today.

    Mankiewicz brought a touch of Hollywood and actual overseas experience to the Peace Corps staff [he was PC Director in Peru] and then headed up the Latin American Region. Upside was his astonishing public relations talent; downside was a propensity to shade the truth from time to time, a charaxteristic of political Washington.

    Bill Josephson was bright and hardworking and present at the creation. His very intelligence and drive many interpreted as arrogance and they that thought so were right. . .and wrong. Arrogance in the service of the Peace Corps is no sin; he was certainly not alone in that department.

    Jack Vaughn and Warren Wiggins made the Peace Corps work. Both were very different,. Warren was by a long chalk the more idealistic and practical problem solver. But Vaughn had better judgment. But I am biased: I worked with Warren Wiggins for thirty years. His glass was never half full or half empty: it overflowed.

  • Charlie Peters was wonderful. It was a great idea to have good reporters as evaluators – they could found out what was happening in a way that wasn’t threatening. We knew they wanted to improve the Peace Corps. Of course there were bound to be many problems in the beginning and we wanted to see the Peace Corps be responsive to what was really going on in the field.

    Bill Josephson remained actively supportive of the Peace Corps for so many years even after he no longer worked for the agency. I personally feel I owe him alot for inspiring me to want to keep making a difference.

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