Birthdate: February 28, 1933
Birthplace: Huntsville, Alabama
High School: Lima (Ohio) Central High School (1952)
College: Ohio State University (1953-54), Alabama A&M University (1959-61)
Died: June 29, 2010
Year Inducted: 2023
Cleo “Chico” Vaughn not only was a stunning three-sport athlete, he helped break the basketball color barrier by becoming the first African American to both play for the Ohio State varsity and letter for the Buckeyes.
Born in Athens, Ala., in the Depression Era, Vaughn moved with his family to Ohio when he was young and would develop into a first-team all-state basketball player at Lima Central High School while also receiving all-state mention in baseball and football. He jumped center in high school and famously played one postseason with headgear after suffering a fractured jaw. Central came within a game of the state final four at the end of his junior and senior seasons.
After setting several school records there, Vaughn arrived to Ohio State, scholarship in hand, and had to overcome a sometimes unaccepting public while working his way into Floyd Stahl’s starting lineup. However, he injured a knee in a 13-point performance against Butler and was limited to 14 games as an OSU sophomore. That next fall, he decided not to continue his career and instead enlisted in the U.S. Army.
After serving in the military, he inked a $4,000 bonus contract with the New York Yankees organization and played for two seasons with the Class B Modesto (Calif.) Reds. He then used his GI Bill benefits to complete his education and tap into his remaining college basketball eligibility at Alabama A&M, where he averaged right around 31 points per game as a guard and also played on the football team.
After working for Ebony magazine in Detroit and getting to know Motown legends such as Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye, Vaughn settled in Toledo and founded the Cleo Vaughn Sports Group, which offered free basketball camps, clinics and life skills to kids in the area. Eventual Ohio State superstars Jimmy Jackson and Dennis Hopson were among those who benefitted from the program, which widened into Michigan, Indiana and beyond.
Through his camps and public speaking ventures, he often spoke of the many blessing of life and athletics, and he also encouraged youngsters to pursue higher education, avoid drugs, and overcome inherent racism.
Vaughn passed away surrounded by his loving family on June 29, 2010, at the age of 77. He enters the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame posthumously and will be remembered as someone who truly helped evolve the game as well as positively influence thousands of youth.