John Carl West

79th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1971 to 1975

Date Born: August 27, 1922

Date Died: March 21, 2004

Place Born: Camden, SC

Place Buried: Forest Lawn Memorial Park,
Camden, SC

Residence: Camden, SC, Hilton Head, SC

Occupation: Lawyer, Major in US Army, Professor of Middle East Studies


The Citadel, A.B.: 1942

University of South Carolina, LL.B.: 1948, Magna Cum Laude

South Carolina Senate: 1955-1966

Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina: 1966-1970

1970 - John Carl West defeated Albert Watson in the general election for governor of South Carolina

U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia: 1977-1981


John Carl West was born on August 27, 1922 in Camden, SC, the son of Shelton James West and Mattie Elizabeth (Ratterree) West, and he grew up on a farm in the Charlotte Thompson community of Kershaw County. He graduated from Camden High School in 1938 and earned a bachelor of arts degree from The Citadel in 1942.

On August 29, 1942, John Carl West married Annie Lois Rhame, daughter of Boykin Wilson Rhame and Annie Lois (Lowery) Rhame of Camden, SC. They had three children.

During World War III, West was a 2nd Lieutenant in the U. S. Army on June 10, 1942 and was initially assigned to the 605th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft). He later served in the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department General Staff (1944-1945) and with the Strategic Bomb Survey in Japan. After rising to the rank of Major, he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and left the service on April 19, 1946.

Upon his return to South Carolina, John Carl West entered law school at the University of South Carolina, where he was the President of the Senior Law Class, editor of the Selden Society Yearbook, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He was admitted to the South Carolina bar on January 13, 1948 while still a student, then graduated Magna Cum Laude with bachelor of laws degree.

West entered public service as a SC Highway Commissioner (1948-1952) and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Kershaw County Hospital (1953).

In the 1954 general election, John Carl West was first elected to represent Kershaw County in the SC Senate of the:
- 91st General Assembly that met from 1955-1956
- 92nd General Assembly that met from 1957-1958
- 93rd General Assembly that met from 1959-1960
- 94th General Assembly that met from 1961-1962
- 95th General Assembly that met from 1963-1964
- 96th General Assembly that met from 1965-1966

On November 8, 1966, John Carl West was elected as Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina and served under Gov. Robert Evander McNair. While in office, he was elected Vice President of the Southern Region of the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors (1967).

On November 3, 1970, John Carl West was elected Governor of South Carolina and was inaugurated on January 19, 1971. He served as governor until January 21, 1975. Considered progressive in racial matters, Gov. West improved relations between blacks and whites in South Carolina during his administration. He also supported teach pay raises and automobile insurance reform. He vetoed a 1974 bill restoring the state's death penalty but his veto was overridden by the SC General Assembly.

After leaving office, John Carl West returned to his law practice in Camden, SC. He was also Chairman of the Board and CEO of Banner Publishers, Inc., which owned the Camden Chronicle and several other community newspapers. He was also a Partner in Arab-American Development Service, Inc.

In June of 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed him as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and he served until April of 1981.

Upon his return to South Carolina, John Carl West re-established his law practice, this time on Hilton Head Island. He then served as Distinguished Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of South Carolina, and as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of West, Onorato, Burden and Associates, Inc., a real estate development firm. He has also served as Director of Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette, the Whittaker Corporation, Circle "S" Industries, Inc., and Vinnell Corporation.

John Carl West died of cancer on March 21, 2004 at his home in Hilton Head Island, SC. He was buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Camden, SC.


John Carl West was born in Camden, SC. He graduated with a B.A. from The Citadel in 1942 and received an LL.B. from the University of South Carolina in 1948. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, achieving the rank of Major and receiving the Army Commendation Medal. He was a part-time political science instructor at the University of South Carolina from 1946 to 1948 and practiced law with the firm of West, Holland, and Furman from 1948 to 1970. Prior to becoming governor, he held a number of state offices, including South Carolina Highway Commissioner (1948-1952), state Senator (1954-1966) and Lieutenant Governor (1966-1971). West's other activities have included membership in the Kiwanis Club, the American Legion, the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, the Coker College Board of Trustees, the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors, the National Governors Association's Executive Committee (1971-1972), and the Education Commission of the States, which he chaired in 1974 and 1975. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1977 to 1981 and was a professor of Middle East Studies at the University of South Carolina from 1981 until 2004.
Click Here to view/download an Inventory of the Papers of Governor John Carl West as found in the University of South Carolina Libray.

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