E. S. Lawbaugh, recently elected MOPH Judge Advocate, was born and raised in St. Marys, Missouri. He graduated from Regis College, Denver Colorado, in 1957. At Regis he was a member of the freshmen basketball team and the varsity baseball team. Vess was a U.S. Marine Corps reservist while in college, and rose to the rank of sergeant while serving with the Denver based155 Gun Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. After college he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. He spent two years on active duty; then returned to Missouri, where he coached high school football, basketball and baseball for four years. He was named "Old Settlement Conference Coach of the Year" in 1961. During the period as a civilian, Vess earned a Masters Degree in Education at the University of Missouri in 1962.
When the Vietnam situation began heating up, Vess volunteered to return to active duty. He integrated with a regular commission in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served two tours in Vietnam. In 1965 he was with the 2nd Battalion, 12th Marines and in 1969-'70 with the 5th/7th Communications Battalions. He was wounded in action on 12 August 1969, spent four months recovering at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Guam and returned to Vietnam in December.
During his career in the Marine Corps, Vess commanded five platoons, two companies, and the Communications Squadron in the 1st Marine Air Wing. His service schools included the Command and Staff College in 1976, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1978. He was selected for the Marine Corps Advanced Degree Program and received his doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University of Mississippi in 1972. Vess' last tour in the Marine Corps was in Annapolis, MD, where he served as Marine Corps Director at ECAC, a joint command.
Upon retirement from the Marine Corps in 1981, Vess attended the University of Arkansas and received his Juris Doctorate Degree in 1984. He took a job as Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Yankton College in South Dakota. In 1985, he moved to Buena Vista University in Iowa as Director of Development and Legal Advisor. In 1990, he and his wife, Sonja, returned to Arkansas. Vess then began specializing in Criminal Law as both a defense counsel and as city prosecutor in Westville, Oklahoma.
He joined MOPH in 2005. He was Region V Patriot of the Year in 2010; and served six years as Chapter 460 Commander, and five years as Department Commander. He served previously as the National Judge Advocate from 2012 to 2014. In 2013, he was inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame by US Senators Pryor and Boozman. Vess and Sonja, his wife, best friend and supporter, reside in Fayetteville, Arkansas.