By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
Friends and associates of veterans' advocate Alexander Vernon Friday expressed surprise at his death and shared praise in their memories of his leadership.
Vernon, 79, of Killeen, died Wednesday in a Temple hospital. He was the first black commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Texas and a life member of VFW Post 9191 of Killeen, where he was post commander from 1975 and from 1988 to 2002. At the district level, he was a junior vice commander in 1978-79, senior vice commander in 1979-80 and commander in 1980-81.
Among other responsibilities and honors, then-Gov. George Bush selected him for a six-year term on the Texas Veterans Commission, where he was named vice chair in 1999. He was co-chairman of the VFW National Security Committee in 1997-98 and was a national council member from 1998 to 2000. In September 1999, he received the Congressional Black Causus Braintrust Award, an honor instituted by retired Gen. Colin Powell.
Former Killeen Mayor Maureen Jouett said Vernon "was always a very stabilizing force. If you had an issue, he would help you work through it. He was active in the United Services Organization (USO) and a wide variety of causes."
She said, "I was surprised by his passing. I knew he was sick, but I thought he was getting better."
Another prominent veterans organization leader, Theron Johnson, commander of W.R. Hold Chapter 147 of the Disabled American Veterans, also expressed surprise at Vernon's death.
"He had been in the hospital and a nursing home, but he had come home, and the last I heard, he was doing fine," he said.
"I knew him for many years and worked with him on many things including securing the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery," Johnson said. "He was a really good individual who did a lot for his own post and for many other veterans, too. I always saw him at parades. I have a photo of him arm-in-arm with me and (State Rep.) Jimmie Don Aycock from last Veterans Day.
"Any time I called Washington about some business, they'd have to call Vernon and tell him about it," he said.
U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco, who had worked with Vernon on revitalizing the Veterans Administration health center at Waco, issued a statement saying, "Alexander Vernon truly made a positive difference in the lives of America's veterans and countless others. His decorated service in the Army and tireless commitment to our nation's veterans and national defense is an inspiration to all who were fortunate to know him. My family joins those who mourn his loss but celebrate the enduring legacy of his life."
Edwards chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and co-chairs the House Army Caucus.
Vernon received the Honorable Jesse Brown Award for Leadership from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 2002.
His wife, Nora Elvira Vernon, died in January 2009.
Vernon retired from the Army as a chief warrant officer after nearly 23 years of service that included two tours in Vietnam. He held a master's degree in criminal justice and served as a criminal investigator for the Killeen Police Department for 11 years, later working for the Lockheed Corp. at Fort Hood.
Contact Don Bolding at email@example.com or (254) 501-7557. Follow him on Twitter at KDHbusiness.