Congressman Clyburn Reacts to Governor West's Passing

Mar 22, 2004

(Washington, DC) - Congressman James E. Clyburn had the following reaction to the death of Governor John West.  Governor West broke barriers by hiring the Congressman in January 1971 as Assistant to the Governor for Human Resource Development.  Governor West later appointed the Congressman as the South Carolina Human Affairs Commissioner in October 1974; a position he held for 18 years prior to running for Congress.

"Governor West took office at a crossroads in our State's history.  We had just emerged scarred from racial strife: the 1968 incident at an Orangeburg bowling alley that resulted in the death of three students; the 1969 113-day Charleston hospital strike; and incidents in 1970 surrounding school integration including the overturning of a school bus in Lamar.  There was no state agency during these turbulent times to help resolve racial conflicts to prevent these tumultuous events. As Governor, John West showed great creativity and innovation in establishing the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission.  For the first time, our State was pro-active in easing racial tension by ensuring that all South Carolinians' civil rights were enforced.

"I was honored to serve on the staff of this visionary leader and gratefully accepted the appointment to lead the Commission he had the courage to create that went on to become a model for other states to follow. His legacy is one of healing and hope.  He was a gentle but forceful leader with a great determination to do what was right without regard to his personal sacrifice.  His strength of character led him to tackle another challenge that of Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during President Carter's Administration.  He embraced difficult situations, and his presence was always comforting and commanding.

"I will miss my friend and mentor.  He made an enormous difference in my life and the lives of every South Carolinian." 

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