The Honorable Togo D. West, Jr.
The Honorable Togo D. West, Jr., was sworn in as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs by the Vice President on May 5, 1998, after having served since January 2, 1998, as Acting Secretary at the direction of President Clinton. Secretary West directs the federal government's second largest department, responsible for a nationwide system of health care services, benefits programs, and national cemeteries for America's veterans and dependents.
Prior to that, in November 1993, Secretary West had been appointed by the President as Secretary of the Army, where he served until selected for his current position. He also served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Commission, a U.S. government entity with a binational board appointed by the President.
Mr. West was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Field Artillery Corps upon college graduation in 1965. After completing law school in 1968, he served as a law clerk to Judge Harold R. Tyler, Jr., in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 1969, he was called to active military duty in the Army's Judge Advocate General Corps, and served in the Office of the Judge Advocate General and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs until 1973. In 1975, Mr. West joined the Administration of President Ford as Associate Deputy Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1977, in the Carter Administration, he was named as the General Counsel for the Navy. In 1979, he served as the Special Assistant to the Secretary and to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and in January 1980 was appointed by President Carter as the General Counsel of the Department of Defense.
Mr. West practiced law with the firm of Covington and Burling in Washington, D.C., from 1973 to 1975 and again from 1976 to 1977. In 1981, he joined the New York law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler as a managing partner of its Washington office. In 1990, he accepted a position as Senior Vice President for Government Relations of the Northrop Corporation.
Mr. West received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Howard University in 1965. In 1968, he earned a degree in law from the same university, graduating cum laude. For his military service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal. For his public service, he was twice awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service as well as the Department of the Army Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service, the Department of the Navy Award for Distinguished Public Service, and the Department of the Air Force Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service. In May of 1996, Mr. West was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree from Winston-Salem State University and, in May of 1998, he was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree from Gannon University. An Eagle Scout with Bronze Palm, he was named Distinguished Eagle Scout in 1995 by the Boy Scouts of America.
Secretary West has served as a member of the Vestry, Junior Warden, and Senior Warden of St. John's Church in Lafayette Square. He has been a member of the Standing Committee and the Finance Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and of the Cathedral Chapter of the Washington National Cathedral. He was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1942. He is married to Gail Berry West, his law school classmate, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force from 1980 to 1981. Their daughter, Tiffany, a graduate of Yale Law School, is employed in private practice in Denver, Colorado. Their daughter, Hilary, a Connecticut College graduate, is a paralegal in a New York City law firm. The Wests reside in Washington, D.C.