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Wizard of Odds

The Leadership Interview

This pastor led his congregation to do what others said couldn't be done. Now Jacksonville's Westside is revitalized, and his church is reenergized by Vaughn McLaughlin's message of economic empowerment.

If I were king of the foreeeeeeeesst."

Vaughn McLaughlin's impersonation of the Cowardly Lion is dead on. And when he suddenly breaks into it in the middle of conversation, it's unexpected. You don't know whether to laugh or sing along.

"Not queen! Not duke! Not prince!"

McLaughlin is king of all he surveys: a congregation of 3,000, a Christian academy of 650 students, a mini-mall of shops operated by the church and some of its members, an incubator that helps fledgling entrepreneurs start their own businesses. But it wasn't always this way.

Jacksonville, Florida's Westside was a thriving commercial hub until white flight sent residents scrambling for the outer suburbs. By the time McLaughlin's fledgling congregation located there in 1991, there was almost no trade. The Normandy Mall had closed, ...

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