- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 21, 2004

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Former Democratic Gov. John C. West, who helped smooth racial tensions in South Carolina in the years after highway patrolmen fatally shot three black student protesters, died yesterday. He was 81.

Mr. West, who served as governor from 1971 to 1975, died at his home in Hilton Head after a lengthy battle with cancer, said Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian.

Mr. West hired James Clyburn as a senior aide, becoming one of the first governors to hire a black man to such a position. Mr. West later tapped Mr. Clyburn to run the State Human Affairs Commission, which the governor set up in 1972. Mr. Clyburn went on to become the state’s first black U.S. representative since Reconstruction.

The commission was set up four years after the Orangeburg Massacre, in which highway patrolmen opened fire on a civil rights protest at the historically black South Carolina State University. Three students were killed and 27 were wounded.

When Mr. West’s term as governor ended, he set up law practices in Camden and Hilton Head. In 1977, President Carter appointed him as ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

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