Governor West passed away when the West Forum was housed in the Department of Political Science at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. The following remembrances were recorded by USC faculty and staff associated with the department at the time. We are happy to preserve them on our web site as a tribute to Governor West. Click on a name below for audio file.
Angel, Robert. West Forum Associate Director, Political Science The example of Governor West’s life as a statesman inspired creation of the West Forum. He was unusually dedicated to public service, and determined that government should improve the lives of all citizens. During his last years he devoted much of his time to creation of an organization that would perpetuate the ideas of equality and opportunity for all South Carolinians.
Angstadt, Ben. Political Science Student I appreciated the time that I got to spend with Governor West through the West Forum. I’ve been researching his life and career now. He was an amazing man and I am grateful that I got a chance to know him while serving as a West Forum volunteer.Boerke, Arthur. History Student I had the opportunity to meet Governor West when he was involved in projects here with the West Forum that Dr. Angel was putting together. I thought he was a good man and he gave a lot of his time to the community and gave a lot of political science students more opportunities to get involved in civic activities. Boland, Tab. Political Science Student I have heard stories about Governor West from my parents and grandparents who knew him. It was really interesting to get to meet him and to see someone who had a career similar to the one to which I aspire. Bowman, Ann. Interim Chair, Political Science I remember Governor West from the times he lectured in my state government classes. He came in and absolutely mesmerized the students. I was amazed. I’d never seen him speak before his first visit. It was remarkable the way he could hold the students’ attention and engage with them, reaching across the age differences. He had a certain dignity and style, as well as a great sense of humor that went along with his encyclopedic information about politics. Buice, Sallie. Walker Institute I always remember Governor West as the sweetest person in the world, like a grandfather. Even though he was a dignitary he always took time to sit and talk with me and invite me down to his house on Hilton Head to play golf. Byrnes, Mary Ann. College of Arts and Sciences I remember Governor West as a great statesman, probably the greatest statesman this state has ever produced. Coate, Roger. Political Science Governor West was the finest public servant we have had in this state. He will be remembered especially for his work with civil rights. But he also made a difference in education, making it accessible to all groups and races, including the poor. He was a real statesman, serving as both governor and ambassador, and he continued in his statesman role even after leaving public office. Durkin, Thomas. Political Science I invited Governor West to speak to my class one day and he held them spellbound. We were talking about issues like capital punishment and Mideast politics. The students were enthralled. They actually got to meet an honest, intelligent statesman. Many of them have not had much experience with that during their lives. Finnigan, Kristia. Political Science I used to coordinate Governor West’s lecture schedule. He spoke to ten political science classes each semester, including my own on occasion. The students respected him tremendously. I’ll remember him as a wise and caring leader and teacher, and feel honored to have known him. Glad, Betty. Political Science I remember Governor West as a very modest, unassuming man. In my experience, often the very greatest of people don’t advertise how great they are. Graham, Blease. West Forum Director, Political Science I remember Governor West as a person for whom politics was positive. He relished political competition. He thought it important that citizens of all categories participate, from the well-to-do and the well informed to citizens who didn’t have much and who were just learning they should be involved in politics. It was such a refreshing contrast to the negative view of politics that many people hold today. Kreml, William. Political Science - Retired I remember Governor West as an Old School politician, which means that he really liked people. He got out and spoke with them. And secondly, he really had a sense of history, of where South Carolina had been and where it needed to go. That 1970 campaign was a true turning point in South Carolina history. He spoke out very clearly on the issue of race which had been the issue that bedeviled South Carolina for two centuries. Marshall, D Bruce. Political Science - Retired I remember John West as one of the most engaging colleagues and conversationalists I have known. He was a regular speaker in my undergraduate classes. All of the students were fascinated by his tales of political life in Saudi Arabia and his insights into the political and economic problems of the Middle East. He gave a human face to the events and abstract ideas we discussed in that class. He was much appreciated. Opperman, Joey. Political Science Student Since I was twelve years old people have told me that John West was the best governor we ever had because of his ability to negotiate such difficult times. The early 1970s were very difficult for most of the South. And South Carolina had it a lot easier because of Governor West’s compassionate and intelligent leadership. Powell, Burnele Venable. Dean, Law School Governor West was an individual who was able to operate on the statewide and national levels and to bring individuals of all races and social-economic strata together. Pridgen, Ameenah. Political Science Student I remember how Governor West took the students out to lunch and that he always was so concerned about how we felt. He never talked about himself unless we asked a question. He was always concerned about how we felt about politics. That is my main memory of him. Puchala, Donald. Political Science I remember John West as one of the friendliest and most helpful people that I encountered in all my years in South Carolina. He did a great deal for the Walker Institute. He spoke often; he provided funds for students; he inspired students to go into government. I just remember him as a very very close friend. I’m sad that John is no longer with us because the whole state has lost a major friend and statesman. Starr, Harvey. Chair, Political Science I only knew Governor West for about five years. But every time I met him I had more respect for him, as a person, as a policymaker, as a friend of the University. He had a long relationship with our Department, he was truly a friend of our Department, and he will be greatly missed by everyone here. Stearns, John. Political Science Student I remember Governor West as representing a form of political discourse that seems to be out of fashion, a mentality of civility in public debate, the advancement of civil society, and the value of compromise. Stucker, John. Political Science He was one of the best friends I had in South Carolina. I met him shortly after I came here over three decades ago. Over all of those years he taught me not only about my adopted state but he taught me a lot about myself. I always enjoyed his visits to my class because he shared his love of government and politics, and his love of life, and most of all his love of South Carolina with the young men and women in class.Sumer, Farhettin. Political Science I met Governor West several times in the Department. He was a very kind man. He was very knowledgeable. He cared about education. His West Foundation provided me with a fellowship for which I was thankful since it allowed me to complete my doctoral dissertation. Tiemeyer, Deborah. Political Science The Governor West I remember was a kind, gentle, caring man. VanHuss, Susie. USC Foundations John West did much to destroy the image I’ve had of politicians which has not always been positive. He was a warm, wonderful individual who cared about everybody, not just those he ought to care about. Weatherbee, Donald. Political Science - Retired Governor West used to give one lecture every semester in my American foreign policy course. I was always impressed with the way he could enthrall the students. Wessinger, Annie. Political Science Student I remember Governor West as a great South Carolinian who was generous enough to come to USC to speak to the future of South Carolina about his own experiences. He brought a lot of respect to the positions he filled.