J.B. West





J.B. West

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J. B. West (1912–1983), chief usher of the White House—or executive director of the executive mansion and grounds—was once called “the most powerful man in Washington next to the president.” Discreet and witty, he supervised the large permanent staff that provided for every personal want and need for six presidents and first ladies, including at state dinners, weddings, and funerals, redecorating the facilities for each family and tending to every special request. He served first as assistant to the chief usher and then as chief usher after retiring as a high-level civilian officer of the US Navy. A native Iowan, his White House tenure (1941–1969) followed a career in the Veterans Administration. Upstairs at the White House was published in ...more


Average rating: 4.07 · 1,791 ratings · 222 reviews · 2 distinct works · Similar authors
Upstairs at the White House...
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“The secret was loyalty to the White House and to the Presidency, rather than to whoever happens to be occupying the office for four years, or eight.”
J.B. West, Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies

“ask the President and then tell the usher how many there will be. In the winter months,”
J.B. West, Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies

“the fourth-floor room she’d set up as her office. I was struck by the difference between her and Mrs. Roosevelt. As I entered, she indicated a comfortable chair, and smiled. It was the smile of an equal, not of someone who considered herself of superior rank or status. When she spoke, I was aware from her words, from her tone of voice, that there was no distance of class or background between Bess Truman and myself. She seemed like an ordinary person, like someone from Creston, Iowa. Or Independence, Missouri. I felt at ease and I liked her immediately. “I’m afraid I don’t know much about the operation of the White House,” she began. “You can appreciate how sudden this is for us.” “We’re here to do everything in the world to help you,” I answered. “I’ll try my best to explain how the house operates and how the staff is set up. And then we’ll be at your disposal to try to make it work to fit your family’s needs.”
J.B. West, Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies



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