John C. West
John Carl West, Sr. (August 27, 1922 – March 21, 2004) was a U.S. Democratic Party politician who served as the 109th Governor of South Carolina from 1971 to 1975. He served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1977 to 1981.
West was born in Camden, South Carolina and grew up in the farming community of Charlotte Thompson in Kershaw County. His father, along with 76 other persons, was killed in a fire at the nearby Cleveland School. His mother and maternal grandmother escaped unharmed from the fire. In 1942, he married his childhood sweetheart, Lois Rhame. They had three children: a daughter and two sons. That same year, he graduated from the Citadel, and was enlisted in the United States Army as an intelligence officer during World War II, assigned to stateside service.
Following the war, he earned a law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1946. From 1948 to 1952, he served on the State Highway Commission. In 1954, he coordinated the unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidacy of Edgar A. Brown, who lost in a write-in campaign waged by former Governor Strom Thurmond. From 1955 to 1967, West served in the South Carolina Senate. He was assigned to several committees that studied public school curriculum, investigated activities of the Communist Party of the United States of America, monitored the State Development Board, examined state support for the nursing profession and junior colleges, and recommended revisions to the state constitution.
West became the 80th Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, serving from 1967 to 1971. In the 1970 gubernatorial election, West, with 53.2 percent of the vote, defeated Republican U.S. Representative Albert W. Watson. After his tenure as Governor, West returned to private law practice and was subsequently appointed United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, a position he held from 1977 to 1981. After returning to the United States, he became a Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of South Carolina. From 1993 until his death from cancer, he was a partner in the Hilton Head law office of Bethea, Jordan, and Griffin.
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