West, Raphael Benjamin
West, Mary Humes Meadors
March 31, 1911
November 20, 1974
Mary Humes Meadors
July 1, 1913
September 14, 2000
Interment Book: 11-22-1974 Ben West
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Mayor Ben West from The Tennessee Encyclopedia
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After 2009 Restoration
Mayor Ben West
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written by Jay West
Ben West was born in Columbia, Tennessee on March 31, 1911. As a boy, his family moved to Nashville's Flat Rock community, now known as Woodbine. After graduating from Central High School, he attended Cumberland School of Law and Vanderbilt University. In 1934 he began work as an assistant district attorney and in 1935 he married Mary Humes Meadors. They were parents to two sons, Jay and Ben, Jr. Jay later became vice mayor of Nashville and Ben became a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
In 1946, West won election as vice-mayor of Nashville and then, in 1949, as state senator in the Tennessee General Assembly.
In 1951 West won election as mayor of Nashville as did the first two African American councilmen in 40 years. As mayor of Nashville, West supported voting reforms, particularly a campaign to reapportion rural and urban voting districts. West championed the cause of reapportionment in the landmark case Baker versus Carr, by which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the "one man, one vote" principle. This ruling forced reapportionment of state legislatures and shifted power to woefully underrepresented cities. While mayor of Nashville, West presided over the Capitol Hill Redevelopment Project, which added a green belt, parking lots, and new state office buildings surrounding the state capitol building.
West's strong alliance with Nashville's black community helped improve race relations and prepare the city for the challenge of the Civil Rights movement. At one critical moment during the civil rights movement in Nashville, protest marchers challenged West to take a stand against segregation. He did so, and the Nashville business community quickly agreed to desegregate department store lunch counters, making Nashville the first southern city to desegregate public facilities.
West was the last mayor of the old City of Nashville before it was consolidated with Davidson County into the new Metropolitan government on April 1, 1963. West retired to private life and died in Nashville on November 20, 1974.