University of South Carolina

Gov. West biographer to speak June 16 at USC

Biographer Phil Grose will discuss his latest book, “Looking for Utopia: the Life and Times of John C. West,” Thursday, June 16, at the University of South Carolina’s Hollings Library.

A reception will begin at 5 p.m., and Grose will speak at 6 p.m. Afterward he will sign copies of the book, which will be available for sale. The event is free and open to the public. A special exhibit of the University’s John C. West Collection will be on display in the SCPC Gallery of the Hollings Library.

In his book, Grose analyzes West’s life and impact as a South Carolina governor and a U.S. ambassador. The work, published by USC Press, is based on research in the West Collection at South Carolina Political Collections (SCPC), interviews, research and Grose’s personal knowledge as a West staffer and associate.

The exhibit will feature historical resources that document West’s life. A highlight of the West Collection is a remarkable diary West maintained while he served as governor, from 1971 to 1975, and as President Jimmy Carter’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, from 1977 to 1981.

“In an era when few public figures remain untarnished, John Carl West (1922-2004) stands out for his remarkable achievements, striking intellect, and deep concern for humanity,” said Herbert Hartsook, director of South Carolina Political Collections.

West’s service to South Carolina included terms as state senator, lieutenant governor and governor. As governor, he worked to end poverty and hunger across the state, and to banish discrimination from state government, Hartsook said.

His major accomplishments included the passage of mandatory automobile insurance for all drivers; the creation of the Coastal Zone Planning and Management Council, the Housing Authority and the Health Policy and Planning Council; and the reorganization of the Governor’s Office. His legacy also includes the creation of the state’s second medical school at the University of South Carolina.

Former Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings said the book is an accurate chronicle of West’s political life.


“Phil Grose has ably captured the importance and essence of my good friend John Carl West in this eminently readable biography,” Hollings said. “John led a remarkable life, from his early service as an intelligence officer during World War II through his effort late in life to have the Confederate Flag removed from the State House dome. Grose has been particularly effective in describing the important role John played as governor during a period of great racial strife, and as Jimmy Carter's ambassador to Saudi Arabia.”

It is Grose’s description of West as a person that struck Rep. Jim Clyburn.

“’Looking for Utopia’ is a most insightful and comprehensive biography of a remarkable man, my friend and mentor John C. West…,” Clyburn said. “Grose has gotten to the core of what made West a truly gifted politician: He was the perfect blend of the Southern gentleman and the determined dreamer.”

The Hollings Library is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call the Hollings Library desk at 803-777-3847 or go to and


By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 06/15/11 @ 1:30 PM | Updated: 06/15/11 @ 1:25 PM | Permalink