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Donald “Doc” Vinson was a well-known and liked man in his home state of Kentucky, a better known man in the world of coon hunting, and a legendarily known man of the American Black & Tan Coonhound Association. It came as a shock to everyone when they heard of his passing on June 29, 2013 at the age of 70. He left behind his wife, Patty, of 50 years, three daughters, Lowanda, Jennifer, and Donna; one son, Samuel; and many grandchildren. Doc served as President of the ABTCHA three times, helped establish the ABTCHA Youth Fund and World Hunt Incentive Fund, gave out membership cards to nearly every Black & Tan person he met, and found a way to give a puppy to every youth that ever wanted a Black & Tan Coonhound. This article is a tribute to Doc and being told by the people that knew him best.
Active in her local church, Patty was only 14 years old when a young Donald (Doc), who was 16 years old at the time, came to the church with his best friend to get a look at a pretty girl he always talked about. Before the day was over, Doc told Patty that he was going to marry her one day and the two of them started seeing each other. A year later Doc joined the service, but he and Patty kept in touch by writing letters back and forth. When Patty was 17, Doc came home to visit with her for a few days, and with only one month left in the service, he and Patty were married right then.
A year later in 1964, the young couple bought their first Black & Tan coonhound puppy for $35 from Clark Cheney. It was only the beginning to their lifelong love of the breed. When asked if they ever drifted away to another coonhound breed, Patty responded quickly with, “No, no, NO, Ma’am!” Never did another breed take residence at their Shaker Hill Kennel.
Doc ran a successful line of hounds and loved to compete with them in the nite hunts. Competition was his thing and some of his biggest wins included placing GR NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ McDonald’s Little Cole as the Black & Tan winner of the 1976 Autumn Oaks. He had GR NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Jones Southern Rambler (GR CH GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Umphers Tenn. Rambler x NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Jones Southern Bell), who placed third in the UKC World Hunt in 1978, and in 1981, 1982 and 1983, won National Grand Nite Champion Black & Tan at Autumn Oaks. His hound, ‘PR’ Vinson’s Shaker Hill Snoopy, won second place at Autumn Oaks in 1973. A female of his, NITE CH CH ‘PR’ Jones’ Southern Jill (GR CH GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Umphers Tenn. Rambler x NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Jones Southern Bell), placed 19th at the UKC World Hunt in 1981. Another well-known hound of his was named Mutt and he too did winning at the major hunts.
Before his death, Doc was campaigning NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Shaker-Hill Mississippi Lilly, who was by his friend, Jarvis Umphers’, stud dog, NITE CH CH ‘PR’ Sundown Ragin Moonshine (and out of GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Midnite Black Scarlet), and placed her 10th at the 2011 Black & Tan Days. Doc also liked to show his hounds, but his true passion was hunting them.
Patty recalls attending almost every Autumn Oaks and Black & Tan Days and only missing a few through the years. Being at these events was a reunion of sorts for her and Doc, and the people they met and befriended were some of the best. The first time they attended Autumn Oaks, Patty said they slept in a tent and probably only got three hours of sleep each day they were there. As the years went on, they finally wised up and got a hotel room where they could sleep in comfort.
The accomplishment of Doc’s hounds were from a mix of good breeding and because Doc hunted them just about every night. Patty liked to tease him that he hunted eight nights a week. Most nights he would head out with a hound or two, then return home and exchange those dogs for fresh ones and go back out for another few hours. As Doc’s health diminished, he wasn’t able to hunt as often as he liked, be he would still find a way to venture out and go. In 2012, Doc needed back surgery and while he was undergoing it, he sent his upcoming hound, Shaker-Hill Mississippi Lilly, to be tuned up. While recovering from his surgery, Doc told Patty that Lilly would be coming back in about a week and would need hunted because he planned on hunting her in the hunts that fall.
Because of his back surgery, he wasn’t able to walk far or lift anything just yet, so he and Patty talked and decided that they would go hunting together and they would hunt some flat ground that was easy walking. They would wait at the truck together until the dogs treed and once they were settled in, Patty would walk to the dogs and retrieve them, while Doc waited at the truck. It was a deal, but unfortunately before they could go hunting Doc passed away of a heart attack that no one saw coming. Lilly arrived back to the Vinson household one week later after this. Patty made the tough decision to part with their kennel of Black & Tans because they deserved better then to sit in the pen. People from several states attended Doc’s funeral to pay their respects.
I asked Patty how she wanted Doc to be remembered, and with tears in her eyes and a shaky voice, she told me this. “He was a common, country, every day person that you could count on. He would tell you what he thought whether you liked it or not, but at least he was honest. He was very supportive in his church.”
A friend of Doc’s for 44 years, Phillip and Doc spent many days working together and many nights hunting in each other’s company. He owns GR CH GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Git Rite GI Jane, the Number Two Current UKC Top Producing Black & Tan female.
How did you and Doc first meet? The year was 1969, when Jarvis Umphers invited me to a local coffee shop to meet up with his friend, Doc Vinson. Less than two minutes after meeting him, Doc asked me if I was a member of the American Black & Tan Coonhound Association. I had never even heard of it and asked Doc what it was. He pulled out his wallet and handed me a membership card and said, “The first is on me big boy, the rest are up to you,” and I have been a friend of Doc’s and a member of the association ever since. Anytime he met someone with a Black & Tan, he would ask them if they were a member. Doc was a conniver; if he didn’t get you to join the association the first time, he would get you on his second try.
In 1973, Doc approached me about a pest control business he was starting up and asked me to work for him. I went to work with him and spent the next while living in a spare room at Doc’s house. We worked different shifts, so we didn’t get to hunt frequently together, so because we each had young dogs that needed singling out, we would share the details of our hunts over morning coffee. After three years, Doc closed the business and went to work for a local pest control company and I moved back home with my family and worked full time for the National Guard.”
What kind of a houndsman was Doc? Doc was very competitive. Dedicated to improving the breed and a dyed in the wool Black & Tan fancier. Clark Cheney got him started in the Black & Tan breed and Doc never wanted anything but them after that. He was the dreamer who dreamed up the ABTCHA Youth Program, a scholarship fund with the objective of promoting youth involvement at the local club level and in the American Black and Tan Coonhound Association. Doc thought the whole thing up and raised almost all of the money needed to get it going. The fund is now $40,000 strong. The reason Doc wanted this program in place was because he, and I too, thought that coon hunting was a dying breed and that too many kids are playing video games, and that this fund might help get some kids on track. Doc was all for the youth. He gave countless Black & Tan pups to kids who wanted one, and if he didn’t have a litter or pup to give them, he would seek out a breeder that did and talk them into giving the pup away to the youth. (Details about this fund can be found online at the ABTCHA website.)
Doc also helped set up the Black & Tan World Hunt Incentive Fund (WHIF) that will award $10,000 to a Black & Tan that wins the UKC World Championship. Details about this fund can also be found at abtcha.net.
What are some of the things you best remember about Doc? His generosity and his outgoing personality. His belief in his Lord and savior, and while Doc was very devoted to his Lord, he wasn’t pushy about it. Doc was dedicated to his family and put his hounds on hold while his kids were growing up. He didn’t give up hunting all together, but instead of spending Friday and Saturday nights at a coon club, he spent them at football games, cheerleading practice and various other activities that his kids were in.
Do you recall any of his dogs? Doc always had a nice hound. GR NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ McDonald’s Little Cole, Black & Tan winner of the 1976 Autumn Oaks. GR NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Jones Southern Rambler. Doc placed him third in the UKC World Hunt in 1978. In 1981, 1982 and 1983, they won National Grand Nite Champion Black & Tan at Autumn Oaks. ‘PR’ Vinson’s Shaker Hill Snoopy won 2nd place at Autumn Oaks in 1973. NITE CH CH ‘PR’ Jones’ Southern Jill was another outstanding hound of his. And he also had Mutt and Jeff that were nice hounds also.
Any interesting times you had together? Many! The one that sticks in my mind was from before I went to work for Doc. I worked at the TV factory of the Sears Roebuck Company and one day Doc brought over their catalog and showed me a $1,000 TV that he wanted and asked if I could get it for him. I haggled with the company and managed to get him the TV that he wanted. Doc asked me what I wanted for it and I told him that since it was a $1,000 TV I wanted a $1,000 dog. Doc didn’t have one at the time and some time passed before Doc said he wanted me to go and look at a dog with him. Dell Johnson had a nice young female that Doc wanted and so we drove out to his place and took her hunting, and Doc bought her. On the drive back Doc asked me what I thought of her, and I told him that she was a nice one with potential. He then asked if I thought that he could get $1,000 for her, and I told him yeah he probably could. Right then he told me “Well there you go big boy, the TV is paid for.” To tell the truth, I think I only paid about $400 for that TV and I’m pretty sure that’s all he paid for that dog. I called that dog Cindy and while she wasn’t a great coon dog, she was a good reproducer.
Closing thoughts. I lived 330 miles, give or take a half-mile or so, from Doc. I had the honor of being a pallbearer at Doc’s funeral. People came from several states to pay their respects and I’ll bet the line of people stayed 75 yards long the entire time. Miss Patty stood at that receiving line for seven hours straight and never took a break; she is something else.
Doc and Jarvis shared a friendship for more than 40 years. Jarvis was the first person to put together the ABTCHA yearbook.
How did you and Doc First meet? It was the late 1960’s and we were both at Black & Tan Days. I was there promoting the Black & Tan breed and Doc was there with a dog that he had recently purchased called Cole. We hit it off and since I lived south of Doc, and most of the events were in the north, my route of travel would go right past Doc’s house, so I would always stop by on my way to an event and we would sometimes travel together to them. The times I stayed in his home, Patty made sure I was fed pretty well.
Shortly after meeting Doc, I invited him down to my area of Mississippi for a big spring hunt. I can’t remember if we drew out together or if I just guided his cast, but he had his Cole dog and we hunted some of my good spots and they racked up an impressive score. Doc ended up getting a first place win that night. I kind of went to the PKC side of hunting and Doc remained with UKC, but I did get him to judge several of my casts. He was always very strict to the rules.
What kind of a houndsman was Doc? A good one. We would go to Autumn Oaks and not sleep for three days. We would sit up all day talking in the dog barns, go hunting, then when all the casts came back, we would go out again and have anywhere from 12 to 15 people out with us. Doc was one of the best at climbing a tree and shaking the coon out.
What are some of the things you remember best about Doc? I have a lot of good memories. The fondest was his love for his church. He was a firm believer in his faith and loved to discuss the bible and we did this on many occasion. We shared many good nights with the dogs too. His love for the sport, dogs, people, and the Black & Tan Association. He was very fair and honest. He did a real good job with his family, he had Patty and his four kids, and I guess I was a little jealous about that because I only have one son and one grandson.
Do you recall any of his dogs? He had some good ones. The one I remember best is the one he had out of my dog. I owned GR CH GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Umphers Tenn. Rambler and Walt Jones bred NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Jones Southern Bell to him. The pups showed great potential at six to seven months old and I bought one called Might Mini for $1,000 at seven months old. Since this litter turned out good, Walt made the cross again and that’s when Doc got one and called it GR NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Jones Southern Rambler.
Any interesting times you had together? Only about 20! One time when we went camping in the White River Bottoms of Arkansas, there was about six of us men while the wives stayed home and went shopping. We did this every year and it grew from the six of us to about 40 or 50 and this is what we call the Black & Tan Reunion.
Another funny time was when we were out camping again and decided to split up into teams to see who could get the most coon. My team was on horseback and Doc’s took the jeep. I snuck off from my team and the dogs I had made a tree, so I tied my horse up and shot the coon out. The coon came down, but he was only crippled and he and the dogs took off through the woods and I ended up losing my horse. I built a fire then started looking for my horse and finally found him and hooked back up with my team. All together we had 13 to 14 coon. Doc’s team, however, had gotten the jeep stuck and had spent the entire night trying to get it unstuck.
Closing thoughts. When Doc passed, Patty gave me his NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Shaker-Hill Mississippi Lilly dog since she was out of my Moonshine dog. Unfortunately, after I got Lilly I had a young man hunting her for me and one day she got out of the kennel and was struck and killed by a car. Having Lilly was a great memento of our friendship through the years.
A 30-year friend of Doc’s, Mike has been an active participant with his Black & Tans for many years.
How did you and Doc first meet? The first time I met Doc was at the Grand American in the late 70’s or early 80’s. I had seen his ad in the magazines for Shaker Hill Kennels and there he was in the back corner of the main dog building with a litter of pups for sale. I had a good talk with him that day. I will never forget his sign that said Shaker Hill Kennels.
What kind of a houndsman was Doc? I think Doc was a great houndsman. He loved the Black & Tan breed. He was a born competition hunter and loved getting a dog ready for the hunts. When I first met Doc he was promoting a dog called Jones Southern Rambler. He did a lot of winning with Rambler. Some of his other notable dogs were George, Mutt, Jeff, Lilly and Gun. One thing about Doc, if it wasn’t a coon dog it didn’t stay around very long.
Doc was, without a doubt, the best promoter of the American Black & Tan Coonhound Association. I don’t know anyone more passionate about the association than him. He would always ask anyone he saw with a Black & Tan if they were a member of the association. He served as President for three terms, vice president and on many committees over the years. I once saw a membership list from 1964 and the only name on that list that I recognized was Doc Vinson. One of Doc’s accomplishments for the association that he was most proud of was the implementation of our scholarship program. The scholarship was Doc’s idea and he worked very hard to get it going. Because of Doc’s idea, we now give two $1,000 scholarships at Black and Tan Days. He was so committed to the scholarship program in 2012 he told my wife Paula that if she raised $500 for the scholarship fund, she could shave his head at Black and Tan Days. She raised the $500 and she shaved Doc’s head. Because of Doc, my wife and I both became involved in the association. I served on the board of directors under Doc as president.
Any interesting times you and Doc had together? Any time I was around Doc it was very interesting. He had many, many stories to tell and we talked about everything from dogs to family. He was active in his church and was a great father and grandfather. In recent years after he had back problems and hunting wasn’t as easy as it used to be, he and his grandkids got involved in showing goats. Then he had goat stories to tell.
For the last several years, Doc and Patty would park their camper next to ours at all the major hunts. We spent many, many days and nights sitting around the campers talking and sharing stories and ideas about the Black & Tan breed and the association. Doc and Patty were a great couple. They absolutely adored each other and could be seen at every hunt walking hand and hand over the grounds visiting all their friends. They were married 50 years and coon hunting was a big part of their marriage. Patty supported him through it all. I really don’t know how a guy like him got a gal like her. Patty is the greatest and we love her.
Closing thoughts. Doc was a lot like me in one way, we are both very opinionated. We would never get together that we didn’t get in a disagreement about something and it go on for hours. When it was over, it was over, and we would shake hands, pat each other on the back and couldn’t wait for the next time we were together so we could do it all over again. Doc is and always will be missed by my wife and me. And Patty we love you.
Secretary for the ABTCHA, Jessie had known Doc for 17 years and was a man that helped her become more knowledge about the Black & Tan breed.
I first met Doc when I was around 12 years old at the 1995 Autumn Oaks. We all had our dogs in the breed barns together at the fairgrounds there in Richmond. That was the same year he won high scoring Black & Tan male with his dog named Shaker Hill Sir Charles Mutt. Doc’s conversation with me started out with a single penny. He handed me a penny and told me if I keep this penny I would never be broke, and of course as a young kid then I was like wow. He later asked me to keep an eye on his dog, as he was going to take a nap to prepare himself for the hunt that night. You see, his dog Mutt liked to bark sometimes, and it was my job to make sure the dog was quiet and resting for the big hunt that night so he would do well, and he sure did that night.
Since that time Doc and my dad, John Allred, started talking to each other on possible crosses and later Doc purchased a female from my father and she was named after me, Shaker Hill Jessie. The relationship between Doc and our family just got stronger over the years. Then he decided that he wanted to send us a female who was named Trouble. There was one string attached with Trouble. Doc wanted us to bring her back to Kentucky to him when she came into heat for her to be bred and have a litter of pups, and then she would be ours, but really my husband Jason laid claim to her.
I can still remember the trip Jason and I made to Kentucky to take her to Doc’s house. We left Missouri early on a Saturday morning and pulled into Doc’s house that afternoon to drop Trouble off. Mrs. Patty, Doc’s wife, welcomed us into her home, and she was determined to not let us get back on the road until we had filled our stomachs. Patty is a woman who is very caring and always had that smile and hug for us. Trouble returned back to Missouri after we picked her up at B&T Days. We raised those pups for Doc, and then Trouble was our dog.
Doc was always ready to turn a dog loose at all the major hunts. Many times my husband Jason would go along beside him helping chauffeur him. It was always interesting listening to the play-by-play of the hunt the next morning. When we were married we decided to head south for our honeymoon. We had arranged with Doc and Patty to come to their house for a visit. Doc took Jason hunting, and of course like many have done he was sliding by not buying an out-of-state hunting license. I will never forget the story Doc told as the dogs had treed behind a subdivision area, and of course here came the law and Jason had disappeared in that Kentucky hillside back to the truck. We all enjoyed looking at old pictures and just sitting and talking about old times and history of our breed. Doc was a major forefather for the Black & Tan breed and the association. It was great to spend time with Doc and Patty, and they took us in as their own children and showed us many places around Kentucky and Tennessee, including Mammoth Cave. After a few years and seeing each other at the big hunts Doc and his son Sam and a few other friends decided to travel to Missouri to run not only their black dogs coon hunting, but also their Beagles as at that time we had plenty of rabbits. We were able to return the favor, as they stayed at our house but I know my cooking was nowhere close to that great cooking of Patty’s.
Doc was always thinking about his family and friends. His goal was to kill enough rabbits to take back to Kentucky for a big wild game fest, and we sure did do that. Those dogs were running rabbits all over our farm and I remember I was seven months pregnant with our first son, Colton, and the bet Jason and Doc had made was if I could out-shoot Jason then Jason would have to pack all my rabbits. My job was easy that day, and we ended up killing over 100 rabbits that weekend. We sure did have fun running dogs day and night.
I have many memories and had lots of decisions with Doc, but I will never forgot waiting that Sunday morning at Autumn Oaks, just a nervous wreck waiting to see if my score would hold up for high scoring Black & Tan Female. Doc would come and say, “Jess, what was your score?”, and he would just shake his head and say, “You know, some of those dogs had a really good night. I don’t think that score will hold up.” My nerves would just go crazier; he sure did love giving me a hard time. When I did win it, however, he was there to hand me that trophy and shake my hand with a smile. Sometimes we need those people in our life to help push us harder, and also to really make you realize how to deal with life and its dealings wither win or lose.
Doc was a man who was a walking history book, as he could tell you about dogs left and right, good or bad. Doc was not afraid to tell me his opinion, sometimes not the things I wanted to hear but many times what I needed to hear, or he was sure to always tell me what I needed to be doing or just giving that extra push or encouragement. Doc put his heart and soul into his dogs, as well as our association. I can remember the time he shared with me his vision for a scholarship program for the youth of our association. I know when that vision became reality just in the past few years, you could see the smile on his face and the satisfaction of his determination and hard work.
Doc served many years on the board and multiple times as president for our association, and because of his time and work that he has done to help move association towards the top he was awarded the lifetime membership award. Doc was blessed to have some great dogs, and also a great partner in life Mrs. Patty. As Doc worked hard for the association, he too had an encourager and a right-hand wing lady that made sure that he had everything he needed from his hunting equipment to the peppermints in his pocket. Patty has also been my encourager and that smile could be seen at all times day or night or even after checking lots and lots of Easy Entry™ cards, as she is a mother to many. We were all taken by shock as Doc passed away in 2013, and I sadly lost a mentor, friend, and someone who believed in me. From this we all know sometimes that things or people are taken from us sooner then we desire and many times we are still standing there in shock, but we must all remember it’s what we do between those dates that is going to be what matters most and Doc had definitely done his part.