A significant addition, consisting of seventeen and one-half linear feet of material, was received for the collection of John C. West, lieutenant governor and governor of South Carolina from 1967 to 1975, and United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1977 to 1981.
Among the items of note in the addition are papers dating from West’s ambassadorial years, including correspondence, memoranda, schedules, and notes. Also present are outlines and drafts of a proposed memoir of his time in the Middle East, tentatively titled “Don’t Forget to Pack the Grits!”
Following his years as ambassador, West’s continuing interest in the Middle East and its conflicts is reflected in his ongoing correspondence with various Saudi citizens and officials, including members of the royal family. From the time of his return to South Carolina in 1981 until his death in 2004, West was frequently called upon as an expert in Middle Eastern affairs, whether for interviews with local or national media or as a special envoy of the State Department. West corresponded with a number of diplomats and State Department colleagues, offering advice to his successors in foreign service in the Middle East.
Numerous schedules and files relating to conferences and other events indicate West’s continued involvement as an advisor to political leaders, state officials, and educational entities, as well as his popularity as a speaker, particularly on matters pertaining to South Carolina government and to the Middle East.
One of West’s longtime endeavors was an effort to improve education in South Carolina, particularly at his alma maters, The Citadel and the University of South Carolina. There are extensive files on West’s fundraising efforts for and involvement at the two schools. Among these is a file on The Citadel’s close-knit class of 1942, which included numerous well-known South Carolinians; in addition to West, other members of the class were Ernest F. Hollings and future Citadel presidents George M. “Obbe” Seignious and James A. “Alex” Grimsley. Further demonstrating West’s commitment to education are files on the West Foundation, a non-profit corporation established in 1974 and designed to sponsor educational programs, through grants both to institutions and to individual students. As a result of the Foundation’s efforts, the John C. West Professorship of Government and International Relations was established at The Citadel. The Foundation has also distributed scholarships to undergraduates and sponsored numerous lecture series and seminars on international issues.
More recently, the West Foundation helped bring into existence the University of South Carolina’s John C. West Forum on Politics and Policy, an initiative of the Department of Political Science (formerly the Department of Government and International Studies). West’s longstanding support of USC and work for the department as a lecturer led to the naming of the Forum in his honor; according to the original proposal included in the West Forum files, the Forum’s mission is to “promote and promulgate the civic values and political leadership exemplified in the career of Governor West.” This addition includes material relating to the Forum, as well as correspondence, lecture outlines, and research materials related to West’s position as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Mid-East Studies at the University of South Carolina.
Family papers include files relating to West’s mother, Mattie Ratterree West, and her interest in genealogy. Several nineteenth-century documents included seemingly belonged to ancestors, including an autograph album (ca. 1857) and a copybook (ca. 1840s). West himself took an interest in genealogy and corresponded with relatives, close and distant, throughout the country. Essays on West family history were apparently written by John West as a schoolboy.
Campaign materials, 1969-1970, depict the county-by-county organization of West’s campaign for governor. Included are form letters sent to supporters and donors; fund-raising plans; and memoranda from campaign officials Crawford Cook and Richard L. Walker.
Personal files, ca. 1948-2004, include correspondence with friends and associates from throughout West’s life and career. West was a prolific correspondent, and this addition includes many handwritten letters and numerous tributes to friends and public figures who were retiring, as well as remembrances of friends who had passed away. Correspondents include Presidents Jimmy Carter, who appointed West to his ambassadorship, and Bill Clinton, with whom West spent time at Hilton Head Island’s Renaissance Weekends throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Also of note are letters and cards received by West in 2003, when many friends and admirers, having learned that West was ill, wrote to express what he meant to them.
(Portions of the John C. West papers which postdate 1 January 1977 are temporarily closed to researchers.)