Where are they now?: Royce West (1974-75)
From one congress to another
When Royce West ran for Student Congress president in 1974, he wasn’t drawing on a wealth of experience.
“The only other race I had been in was when I ran for student body president in junior high,” he said. “So I learned to appreciate another person’s perspective, even though it may be totally opposed to mine.”
That principle won West the election, making him the first African American to hold the top student office. Ardent supporters included international students, Hispanics and Greeks (he’s a member of Omega Psi Phi), and he brought to the polls a large bloc of African Americans who, he said, had been apathetic about campus elections.
“We were able to put together a coalition based on interests, not race. I was able to become president of the student body by working with people. Those lessons hold me in good stead today.”
Now an attorney and one of Texas’ most visible state senators, West has represented Dallas County’s diverse District 23 since 1993; Texas Monthly recently named him one of the 25 most powerful people in Texas politics. The senator earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1974 and a master’s in sociology in 1979. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2001.
West came to UT Arlington to play football. He was a star athlete—inducted into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame in December—but found his real calling in politics.
He also found an innovative way to augment the Student Congress activities budget. Because most students lived off campus, West began an apartment referral service that netted SC $25 for every student placed. The venture became so successful that the state attorney general ruled that it cease after local apartment finders complained of the competition.
More often, West succeeded by bringing competitors together.
“He had an attitude that he was president of the entire student body,” recalled then-university President Wendell Nedderman. “It was an attitude that radiated out from the way he operated. There’s no question he was a uniter. Darned near everybody liked Royce West.”
— Danny Woodward