JB West

March 31, 2016 Notes: James Bernard West (July 27, 1912 – July 18, 1983), known as J. B. West, was Chief Usher at the White House from 1957 to 1969. His best-selling book, Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies (with Mary Lynn Kotz), documents his time in the executive mansion and is considered a good source of material on the First Families he served.

He directed state functions; planned parties, weddings, funerals, gardens, playgrounds, and extensive renovations; and with a large staff, supervised every activity in the presidential home. For 28 years, first as assistant to the chief usher, then as chief usher, he witnessed national crises and triumphs, and interacted daily with six consecutive presidents and first ladies, their parents, children and grandchildren, and houseguests - including friends, relatives, and heads of state.

He was heavily involved in Jackie's White House restoration project and the two became very close. In 1963 Jackie surprised her lifetime confidante Nancy Tuckerman, then serving as White House Social Secretary, with a birthday party. At the party, West dressed up as "Miss Ward" the former headmistress of Miss Porter's School, where the two women attend school as young girls. West and Kennedy remained in contact after the assassination and often corresponded, with Jackie sending him notes and funny sketches.

West announced his retirement from the White House on November 14, 1968. According to author Ronald Kessler, however, an investigation into missing items at the White House had supposedly discovered that West let friends into the White House for after-hour tours and some of them had stolen White House mementos. According to Kessler again, the investigation also reportedly concluded West was a homosexual, which at the time made him a blackmail/security risk. West was forced to retire, or be dismissed. West left the White House on March 1, 1969. (Wikipedia)

Image copyright Jake Gariepy (Dapper and Dreamy)


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