Togo D. West Jr.

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Togo West
3rd United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
In office
May 4, 1998 – July 10, 2000
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byJesse Brown
Succeeded byAnthony Principi
16th United States Secretary of the Army
In office
November 22, 1993 – May 4, 1998
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byGordon Sullivan (Acting)
Succeeded byRobert M. Walker (Acting)
General Counsel of the Department of Defense
In office
February 1, 1980 – January 20, 1981
PresidentJimmy Carter
Preceded byDeanne C. Siemer
Succeeded byWilliam Howard Taft IV
General Counsel of the Navy
In office
April 22, 1977 – January 13, 1979
PresidentJimmy Carter
Preceded byGrey Lewis
Succeeded byColeman Hicks
Personal details
Togo Dennis West Jr.

(1942-06-21)June 21, 1942
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedMarch 8, 2018(2018-03-08) (aged 75)
between Barbados and Puerto Rico
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Gail Berry
Children2 daughters
EducationHoward University (BS, JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1965–1973
RankUS-O3 insignia.svg Captain
UnitArmy Judge Advocate General's Corps|JAG Corps
AwardsLegion of Merit
Meritorious Service Medal

Togo Dennis West Jr. (June 21, 1942 – March 8, 2018) was an American attorney and public official. A Democrat, he was the third person to occupy the post of Secretary of Veterans Affairs during the Bill Clinton administration serving from 1998 until his resignation in 2000. He was the second African American to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

West was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he became an Eagle Scout with Bronze Palms, and attended Atkins High School (where his parents were teachers), graduating as valedictorian in 1959.[3][2]

He subsequently entered Howard University, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering in 1965.[2] He received his Juris Doctor degree from the Howard University School of Law in 1968, receiving cum laude honors and graduating first in his class.[4] West attended The JAG School at the University of Virginia and entered U.S. Army JAG Corps.

While a freshman at Howard University, he became a brother of Zeta Phi chapter of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.[5] West was a member of the Kappa Psi chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.[5][2]

Early career[edit]

While a law student at Howard, West became the managing editor for the Howard Law Journal.[2] Around that time, he met Gail Berry, who later became his wife.[1]

A member of St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, he served as a vestryman and Senior Warden.[5]

West was a member of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America, the organization's governing body.[3] He was named a Distinguished Eagle Scout by the Boy Scouts of America and was awarded the Silver Buffalo Award for his national contributions to America's youth.[3] He previously served as the President of the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.[3]

Military and government career[edit]

After completing law school and clerking for a federal judge, West entered the United States Army and served in the Judge Advocate General's Corps.[4] He was in the Army Field Artillery Corps from 1965–68 and the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps from 1969 to 1973.[1]

From his military service, he earned the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal.[4] He subsequently practiced law at the firm of Covington & Burling before being appointed an Associate Deputy Attorney General in the administration of President Gerald Ford.[1]

West held several posts in the administration of Jimmy Carter: General Counsel of the Navy (1977–79), Special Assistant to the Secretary and to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (1979), and General Counsel of the Department of Defense (1980–81).[1] As the Secretary of the Army, West weighed in on the Aberdeen scandal, prompting stricter enforcement and investigation into the Army's sexual harassment policies.[4]

West returned to private practice in 1981 with the firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler and later worked as senior vice president for government relations of the Northrop Corporation until he became a member of the Clinton administration.[6]

West was nominated by President Bill Clinton on January 27, 1998, during Clinton's second term, and was confirmed by the Senate on May 4, 1998.[4] He had previously served as Secretary of the Army from 1993 to 1998.[4] From January 2, 1998, through May 4, 1998, he served a dual role as Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of the Army while awaiting confirmation as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.[1]

Post-government career[edit]

After leaving office, West practiced law and served on the boards of various institutions.[1] From 2004 to 2006, he served as president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington-based think tank focused on issues of concern to minorities.[7] He was a strong supporter of and past board member of the Mount Vernon preservation society.[1]

West and former Chief of Naval Operations retired Admiral Vernon Clark led the Defense Department's investigation into the Fort Hood massacre, issuing a report in January 2010.[8]

West died of a heart attack on March 8, 2018, at the age of 75, while on a cruise between Barbados and Puerto Rico.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Togo D. West Jr., Clinton appointee who investigated Army abuses and led veterans affairs, dies at 75
  2. ^ a b c d e "History Makers: Biography of Togo D. West". History Makers. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Boy Scouts of America Annual Report 2011
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Togo D. West Jr., Clinton appointee who led Veterans Affairs and investigated Army abuses, dies at 75". Los Angeles Times. March 11, 2018. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "Fall 2004: Togo West". Alpha Phi Omega @ VCU. Alpha Phi Omega, Alpha Delta Iota Chapter. Archived from the original on February 9, 2005. Retrieved December 10, 2008.
  6. ^ American President: Bill Clinton
  7. ^ "Togo West". Center for Infrastructure Protection & Homeland Security. George Mason University. Archived from the original on April 26, 2015. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  8. ^ Bumiller, Elisabeth; Shane, Scott (January 15, 2010). "Pentagon Report on Fort Hood Details Failures". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 26, 2015.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Grey Lewis
General Counsel of the Navy
Succeeded by
Coleman Hicks
Preceded by
Gordon Sullivan
United States Secretary of the Army
Succeeded by
Mike Walker
Preceded by
Jesse Brown
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Succeeded by
Anthony Principi