James West

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.”

Read the People’s World Obituary

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