Last modified on October 6, 2021, at 01:41

John C. West

John Carl West, Sr.

In office
January 17, 1971 – January 21, 1975
Preceded by William J. Porter
Succeeded by James B. Edwards

United States Ambassador
to Saudi Arabia
In office
June 8, 1977 – March 21, 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
Succeeded by Robert Gerhard Neumann

80th Lieutenant Governor
of South Carolina
In office
January 17, 1967 – January 19, 1971
Governor Robert Evander McNair
Preceded by Robert Evander McNair
Succeeded by Earle Elias Morris, Jr.

South Carolina State Senator
for Kershaw County
In office
January 11, 1955 – January 10, 1967
Preceded by James Clator Arrants

Born August 27, 1922
Camden, Kershaw County,
South Carolina
Died March 21, 2004 (aged 81)
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Camden)
Nationality American
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Lois Rhame West
(married 1942-2004, his death)
Children John "Jack" West, Jr.

Douglas Allen West
Shelton W. Bosley (daughter)
Shelton James and Mattie Elizabeth Ratterree West

Alma mater The Citadel
University of South Carolina
School of Law
Occupation Attorney

Military Service
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Military intelligence officer
(stateside service during World War II)

John Carl West, Sr. (August 27, 1922 – March 21, 2004)[1] was the Democrat Governor of his native South Carolina from 1971 to 1975 and the United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1977 to 1981. Prior to his governorship, he was lieutenant governor from 1967 to 1971, a state senator from 1955 to 1967, and the state highway commissioner from 1948 to 1952.[2]


West was born in Camden in Kershaw County in the north central portion of the Palmetto State and reared in the farming community of Charlotte Thompson. In May 1923, his father, Shelton James West (1885-1923), along with seventy-six other people perished in a fire at the nearby Cleveland School. His mother, the former Mattie Elizabeth Ratterree (1887-1972) and maternal grandmother escaped unharmed from the fire. He was hence reared by his determined single mother.

In 1942, West wed his childhood sweetheart, the former Lois Rhame (1921-2014).[3] The couple had a daughter, Shelton W. Bosley, and two sons, one of whom was the Camden lobbyist John West, Jr. (1948-2020), who died of the coronavirus. The younger son was Douglas Allen West (1951-2006), the widower of the former Susan Broadbent (1951-1995).[4] The younger son was Douglas Allen West (1951-2006)2That same year, he graduated from The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina in Charleston. He enlisted in the United States Army as a major[1] and military intelligence officer during World War II, assigned to stateside service.[5]

Political career

Following the war, West earned a law degree in 1948 from the University of South Carolina in the capital city of Columbia.[5] In 1954, he coordinated the unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidacy of Edgar Allan Brown (1888-1975) of Barnwell County, who lost in a write-in campaign waged by former Governor Strom Thurmond, then a Democrat but in 1964 a defector to the Republican Party.

During his state Senate service he was as were nearly all of the lawmakers at the time, a racial segregationist, but he was troubled when African Americans were denied basic rights. As lieutenant governor, he emerged as "southern moderate" on racial issues.[5] He was assigned to several committees which studied public school curriculum, investigated the Communist Party, monitored the state Development Board, examined state support for the nursing profession and junior colleges, and recommended state constitution revision.

He was elected as the 80th lieutenant governor on November 8, 1966, and served a single term from 1967 to 1971 under Democratic Governor Robert Evander McNair (1923-2007). Elected with McNair and West was the United States Senate nominee, Ernest Hollings, who defeated the Republican state Senator Marshall Joyner Parker (1922-2008). Strom Thurmond was reelected to a full term in the Senate too but fell short in his attempt to convince the white electorate to bolt en masse to the GOP. Barry Goldwater carried South Carolina in the 1964 presidential election against Lyndon B. Johnson, the first time since 1876 that a Republican candidate, Daniel Henry Chamberlain (1835-1907), running for governor, had prevailed in South Carolina.[5]

In the 1970 South Carolina gubernatorial election, the incumbent Robert McNair was constitutionally barred from seeking a second full term. West was elected with 53.2 percent of the vote compared to 45.9 percent for U.S. Representative Albert William Watson (1922-1996). A former state legislator, Alfred Bethea, then a farmer from Dillon, polled 2 percent of the vote as the nominee of George Wallace's former American Independent Party. West's running-mate for lieutenant governor, Earle Elias Morris, Jr., (1928-2011) of Pickens defeated Watson's running mate, advertising executive James M. Henderson of Greenville by about the same percent of the vote as West had prevailed over Watson. Henderson was the father-in-law of later conservative U.S. Senator Jim DeMint.[6]

As governor, West worked to increase employment opportunities in the state. He worked hard to promote economic growth, rising incomes, new jobs.[5] Under West, South Carolina in October 1971 held its first ever integrated state fair in Columbia. In 1973, legislators ratified an amendment to the state constitution that permitted restaurants to serve mixed drinks.[1]

After his tenure as governor, West returned for two years to private law practice until he was appointed the ambassador to Saudi Arabia, a position that he held under his friend and fellow governor, Jimmy Carter of Georgia. West sought to encourage ties between the public and private sectors in both the United States and Saudi Arabia. He met with national lawmakers, such as Moderate Republican Senator Jacob Javits of New York, to discuss the the Saudi economy. In his 1997 oral history, West commented on his strategy of helping the Saudis with their image: "It didn't take a rocket scientist or a smart fellow to realize the public relations of the Arab world was just nonexistent."[7] In a five-point formula for potential peace in the region, the liberal President Carter endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state, a proposal opposed by conservatives. A leading Jewish Democratic Party contributor said that West was more "the Saudis' ambassador to the United States," rather than the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as he had been appointed.[5]

Death and legacy

After returning to the United States, he became a Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of South Carolina.[2] He established a professorship in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at The Citadel. From 1993 until his death from cancer in the resort community of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, West was a partner in the law firm of Bethea, Jordan, and Griffin. He was a Presbyterian.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 SC Governors – John Carl West, 1971-1975. Retrieved on August 13, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 John Carl West (1922-2004) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed September 24, 2021.
  3. Lois Rhame West (1921-2014) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed September 24, 2021.
  4. John Carl “Jack” West Jr. (1948-2020) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessdate=September 24, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Billy Hathorn, Review of Philip G. Grose, Looking for Utopia: The Life and Times of John C. West (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2011), pp. 257-258.
  6. Billy Hathorn, "The Changing Politics of Race: Congressman Albert William Watson and the South Carolina Republican Party, 1965-1970," South Carolina Historical Magazine Vol. 89 (October 1988), pp. 237-238.
  7. Letter to Dee Workman,, no longer on-line.