Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Togo West (1998–2000): Secretary of Veterans' Affairs

Togo West had a long career in the executive branch of the federal government, most recently serving in the Clinton cabinet as secretary of veterans affairs (1998-2000).

West was associate deputy attorney general in the Ford administration (1975-1977) and held several posts in the Carter administration: general counsel to the Navy (1977-1979), special assistant to the secretary and to the deputy secretary of defense (1979), and general counsel to the Department of Defense (1980-1981).

Born in 1942 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, West attended Howard University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering in 1965 and a law degree in 1968. After completing law school, he clerked for Judge Harold R. Tyler Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

He was then called up for active duty in the Army's Judge Advocate General Corps in 1969. From 1969 to 1973, West worked in that office and in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. West practiced law privately with the firm of Covington and Burling from 1973 to 1975 and again from 1976 to 1977.

After working with the Carter administration, West spent nine years as managing partner of the law firm Belknap, Webb & Tyler (1981-1990). He then worked as senior vice president for government relations of the Northrop Corporation until he became a member of the Clinton administration.