The late Togo West Jr. was a high-ranking official in the administration of President Bill Clinton. West served as both the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of Veteran Affairs in the ’90’s, and today is his birthday.

West was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on this day in 1942. After graduating from Atkins High School where his parents taught, West attended Howard University and Howard University School of Law, obtaining his undergraduate and law degrees. During his time in the school, West became a member of the Apha Phi Omega fraternity.

After law school, West joined the Army and served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corp. He went on to practice law before President Gerald Ford appointed him an Associate Deputy Attorney General. This would lead to several appointments of a legal and military nature, serving under President Jimmy Carter as the General Counsel of the Navy, and General Counsel of the Department of Defense.

In 1993, President Clinton nominated West as the Army Secretary and he immediately made a mark by investigating widespread allegations of sexual harassment in the branch, among other issues. In 1998, he was nominated again by President Clinton for the Veteran Affairs Secretary position, although there was controversy over his travel expenses in the job and clashes over raising funding for the VA.

Clinton initially tapped West for the Army Secretary position after the previous Secretary, John Shannon, was caught shoplifting women’s clothing from a store at the Pentagon and later dismissed.

After leaving the Veteran Affairs post, West went back into private practice and joined several boards before retiring. He was on a vacation this past March in the islands when he suffered a heart attack.

West was 75.




Little Known Black History Fact: Togo West, Jr.  was originally published on