Togo West, former U.S. official and W-S native, dies

Togo West, former U.S. official and W-S native, dies
March 15
08:16 2018

Togo Dennis West Jr. was the only child of Evelyn Carter West and Togo Dennis West Sr. He was born June 21, 1942 and died suddenly of a heart attack on March 8, 2018.

He was born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, by his parents, who were teachers in the public school system. They instilled in him a love of country and dedication to duty, which would later lead him to public service.  He attended Atkins High School before moving to Washington, D.C., to attend college at Howard University. He attended Howard for undergraduate studies and law school, where he met his wife, Gail Berry West.   

Secretary West held senior positions in three presidential administrations.  He served in the administration of President Gerald R. Ford as Associate Deputy Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice.  He served in the administration of President Jimmy Carter, where he was General Counsel of the Navy, later the Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, and, thereafter, General Counsel of the Department of Defense.  He served as the 16th Secretary of the Army under President Bill Clinton; and in the second Clinton administration, he served in the President’s Cabinet as the third Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  While Secretary of the Army, he also served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Commission.

Secretary West served on a number of governmental commissions and advisory committees. 

Secretary West received the Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Howard University in 1965, and in 1968, a degree in law from the same university, where he was Managing Editor of the Howard Law Journal, graduating cum laude and first in his class.  He served as law clerk to Judge Harold R. Tyler, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Secretary West practiced law with Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., from 1973 to 1975, from 1976 to 1977, and from 2000 to 2004.  In 1981, after a period of government service, he joined the New York law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler as managing partner of its Washington office.

In 1990, he became Senior Vice President for Government Relations of the Northrop Corporation, and served until his appointment as Secretary of the Army.  From 2004-2006, he served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.  At the time of his death, he was Chairman of TLI Leadership Group, which he established in 2006 to support his professional and community activities.

Secretary West served on and led several boards of directors. He served on the Board of Directors of Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation.

Mr. West was a former Chairman of the Kennedy Center Community and Friends Board and was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger and he served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina School of the Arts.

He was a member of the Board of Visitors of the Wake Forest University School of Law and was a member of the Board of Governors of the School of Law of Antioch University.  He served as a member of the adjunct faculty of the Duke University School of Law.

Secretary West was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Field Artillery Corps and served on active military duty in the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps, attaining the rank of Captain.  For his military service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal, and for his public service, he has received decorations for distinguished service from the Departments of Defense, Army, Air Force, Navy, and Veterans Affairs. 

The Boy Scouts of America have designated him a Distinguished Eagle Scout and have awarded him the Silver Buffalo and Silver Beaver Awards for his national contributions to America’s youth.  He has received numerous awards from veterans, military, and community organizations; has been awarded the degree Doctor of Laws by Gannon University and Winston-Salem State University; has been designated a Hedrick Fellow by the United States Coast Guard Academy; and has been awarded the Alumni Achievement Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement in the fields of law and public policy by his alma mater, Howard University.

Secretary West was a member of St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square, where he served as senior warden, member of the standing committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and of the Board of Directors of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation.  He was recently appointed Chairman of the Washington National Cathedral Veterans Advisory Council.

Togo Dennis West Jr. is survived by his wife of 51 years, Gail Berry West; daughters Tiffany West Smink (Dan) and Hilary Carter West; and grandchildren Jackson West Smink and Natalie Berry Smink.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the MedStar Health Foundation, 10980 Grantchester Way, 8th Floor, Columbia, MD  21044.  Services are pending; burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery.

Submitted by Janice Joyner, a longtime employee of Mr. West.

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