Eisenhower, Dwight D.


President Eisenhower sends sympathies to White House Chief Usher J. B. West on the death of his father


Autograph ID: 6083
Condition: Very good, 2 mail folds, faint minor creasing at top left
Description: “(1890-1969) Led Supreme Allied Command in European Theater 1942-1945 during WW II. President of the US 1953-1961.

TLS on 10 1/2 x 7 gilt “DDE/The White House” letterhead, June 1 1959, to J. B. West, The White House. President Eisenhower sends a most warm and personal note of sympathy to West on the death of his father: “Daily, since you returned from your father’s funeral, I have meant to tell you personally how sorry I was to learn of his death. (My only excuse for not mentioning it is my unreliable memory, a condition that you know to be only too true). But at any rate, I do want, by means of this note, to assure you and all the members of your family of the deep sympathy of Mrs. Eisenhower and myself in your loss. With warm regard/sincerely,/ [signed].

JAMES B. WEST (1912-1983, known as J. B. West), Chief Usher at The White House 1957-69, Assistant Chief Usher 1941-57. After 28 years without granting a single interview, his best-selling 1973 book, “Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies” (written with Mary Lynn Kotz), documented his time in the White House. West began work in the White House as assistant to the chief usher on March 1, 1941 and was promoted to Chief Usher in 1957. He guarded the privacy of the First Families while adjusting to behind-the-scenes routines and demands of the different occupants. With a staff of 72 and budget of $750,000, he oversaw day-to-day operations of the White House, the mansion’s maintenance and renovation, and planning and execution of formal and informal White House events, including the funeral of John F. Kennedy and the wedding of Lynda Bird Johnson.

West announced his retirement on Nov. 14, 1968 after an investigation into missing items at the White House discovered that West let friends into the White House for after-hour tours and some stole White House mementos. The investigation also concluded West was gay, which at the time made him a blackmail/ security risk. He left the White House March 1, 1969.

Intra-White House correspondence between Presidents and White House staff are quite uncommon and desirable.”

Type: Letter

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