January 9, 1914 – March 23, 2005
He Lived for the Party
I was working on this post and having a very hard time finding information about Mr. West. I loved his headstone and couldn’t figure out why someone with such a long life had left such a sparse trail.
I did find some social security information for him which mapped a peripatetic life — going from New York to Los Angeles to Seattle and who knows how many places between the government document markers — but no information that created a picture emerged.
Giving up, I wrote up a simplistic review of the information I’d found and ended it with what was in retrospect a rather embarrassingly pat summary.
Fortunately for my ego, almost literally as I was about to publish this mediocre biography, it dawned on me that in my post-holiday, post-work, late-night bleariness, I’d forgotten a key piece of information: where I’d found Mr. West’s grave in the first place.
James West’s epitaph wasn’t a flippant reference to a man who liked a social event; it was a reference to a man who loved SOCIALISM! Adding “Communist” to my search criteria suddenly revealed a full, amazing life of a man who quite literally “…Lived for the [Communist] Party.”
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