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Gail Berry West

Lawyer Gail Berry West was born on September 29, 1942 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Johnnie Mae Newton and Theodore Berry. She received her B.A. degree in history from Fisk University in 1964, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. West went on to receive her M.A. degree in history from the University of Cincinnati in 1965 and her J.D. degree from Howard University School of Law in 1968.

In 1969, West began her career in the New York office of the general counsel for the International Business Machine Corporation (IBM). Upon moving to Washington, D.C., she transferred to the data processing division and also served as an attorney in litigation analysis, where she assisted in the litigation between IBM and the federal government. In 1977, West joined the Carter administration as special assistant to Patricia Roberts Harris, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She went on to work for Sarah Weddington, assistant to President Jimmy Carter, and served on the White House Task Force on Sex Discrimination. In 1980, West became deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of the Air Force in Reserve Affairs and Installations. She was responsible for policy, program guidance and executive direction for equal employment laws and regulations. She then worked as an attorney and consultant for several companies seeking contracts with the federal government. In 1983, she became executive director of government affairs for Bell Communications (Bellcore), where she served for twelve years until 1995, when she became director of government relations for Armstrong World Industries (AWI). From 2003 to 2007, West served as a consultant for AWI until her retirement.

West served on the board of trustees for the Corcoran Gallery of Art, WETA, Meridian International Center, the Fisher House Foundation, the Arena Stage, the Decatur House Council, the D.C. Commission on Fine Arts, and the National Museum of American History. She served as the vice regent for the District of Columbia to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, on the board of the White House Historical Association, the Hillwood Estate Museum & Gardens, and as a member of the dean’s council for the Washington National Cathedral.

West is the recipient of numerous awards including; IBM Regional Manager’s Merit Award for Outstanding Contribution, Air Force Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service, Bellcore President’s Recognition Award and the Armstrong General Manager’s Award for Team Excellence.

West and her husband, the late Togo D. West, Jr., have two daughters: Tiffany West Smink and Hilary Carter West.

Gail Berry West was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 17, 2019

Accession Number

A2019.001

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/17/2019

Last Name

West

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Middle Name

Berry

Occupation
Schools

Fisk University

University of Cincinnati

Howard University School of Law

First Name

Gail

Birth City, State, Country

Cincinnati

HM ID

WES15

Favorite Season

Summer, Fall, and Spring

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

South of France/Italy/Greece

Favorite Quote

Be Still And Know That I Am God

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

9/29/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chili

Short Description

Lawyer Gail Berry West (1942 - ) served as executive director of government affairs for Bell Communications before serving as director of government relations for Armstrong World Industries.

Employment

Armstrong World Industries

Bell Communications Research

Howard University School of Law

Department of Defense

Government of Washington, D.C.

U.S. Air Force

Department of Housing and Urban Development

International Business Machines (IBM)

White House Public Liaison Office

Favorite Color

Rose and Pink

Robert Wright

Dimensions International, Inc., founder and chairman emeritus Robert Lee Wright was born on March 17, 1937, in Columbus, Georgia, to a bricklayer and a nurse. After graduating from high school, Wright went on to attend Ohio State University where he became classmates with future world class athletes Bob Ferguson and Mel Noel. Wright graduated in 1960 from Ohio State University College of Optometry with his degree in optometry. He returned to Georgia where he began practicing as an optometrist.

Upon his return home to Georgia, Wright became deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1965, he participated in the Selma to Montgomery March. Then, in 1968, Wright’s career interest changed to politics when he was recruited by the Republican Party to run for Columbus City Council. He won and was re-elected three times before being appointed to the position of Associate Administrator for Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development by President Ronald Reagan. After two years of working with the Reagan Administration, Wright resigned, and in 1985, he founded Dimensions International, Inc. Through Dimensions International, Wright began providing leading-edge technology to the government and private sector in the fields of systems engineering, information technology, and airspace management. A core subsidiary of Dimensions International is Flight Explorer, the leading provider of web-based global flight tracking information. Under Wright’s leadership, Dimensions International grew to a multimillion dollar defense contractor, listed amongst Black Enterprise’s 100.

Wright was chairman of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and of the Sub-Saharan Advisory Committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Since 1999, he has been a director of Aflac, Inc. He has received many awards and recognitions, including the 2001 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Technology Services; the Man of the Year of the National Federation of Black Women Business Owners; the 2007 Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen Award; the NAACP Achievement Award; and the Push Excellence Award.

Accession Number

A2008.077

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/1/2008

Last Name

Wright

Middle Name

Lee

Schools

Spencer High School

Fifth Avenue School

The Ohio State University

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Columbus

HM ID

WRI04

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Richard Holmes

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Rome, Italy

Favorite Quote

What Is, Is.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/17/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pudding (Banana)

Short Description

Technology chief executive, civil rights activist, and city council member Robert Wright (1937 - ) was the founder and chairman emeritus of Dimensions International, Inc., a leading information technology and airspace management solutions provider. Wright participated in the Selma to Montgomery March, and worked in the Reagan administration after serving four terms in the Columbus, Georgia, city council.

Employment

Self-Employed

Columbus Council

U.S. Small Business Administration

Dimensions International, Inc.

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Wright's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Wright lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Wright describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Wright describes his mother's community in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Wright describes his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Wright describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Wright describes his parents' personalities, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Wright describes his parents' personalities, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Wright describes his father's career in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Wright describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Wright describes the influence of Fort Benning on Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Wright describes his neighborhood in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Wright describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Wright recalls serving on a presidential commission with Hank Aaron

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Wright describes his early activities in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Wright describes his early academic interests

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Wright remembers the Fifth Avenue School in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Wright remembers William H. Spencer High School in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Wright recalls his favorite music from his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Wright recalls his early experiences of watching television

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Wright remembers racial discrimination in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Wright recalls his decision to attend The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Wright remembers his studies at The Ohio State University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Wright recalls his community at The Ohio State University, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Wright recalls his community at The Ohio State University, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Wright recalls returning to Columbus, Georgia after college

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Wright recalls his optometry practice in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Wright describes his civil rights and political activities

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Wright recalls joining the Republican Party in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Wright recalls his work with Republican politicians in the South

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Wright remembers serving on the U.S. Small Business Administration

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert Wright describes the growth of the U.S. Small Business Administration

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Wright describes his achievements at the U.S. Small Business Administration

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Wright remembers founding Dimensions International, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Wright describes his career at Dimensions International, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Wright describes his achievements in business

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert Wright describes his philanthropy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert Wright describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert Wright reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert Wright reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Robert Wright reflects upon his family

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Robert Wright describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
Robert Wright describes his achievements at the U.S. Small Business Administration
Robert Wright remembers founding Dimensions International, Inc.
Transcript
Now you were at the SBA [U.S. Small Business Administration] for two years. We were mentioning off-screen Sonicraft [Sonicraft, Inc., Chicago, Illinois] as being one of the--in Chicago [Illinois] as being one of the minority-owned businesses that you helped fund, you know. And quite a few businesses got big contracts, you know.$$Oh, yeah, yeah, quite a few businesses got huge contracts and, you know, I was instrumental in trying to get some of those contracts. The idea being if you get the contract, you can hire the people, you can bring the expertise, you can grow a business, you can make that business competitive so that when you can't bid for these or get these kind of contracts, you have a, a good foundation in which to grow your business on a competitive basis. That was the whole idea. We provide management, technical assistance. In some instances, we provided equipment to firms, so it was a great opportunity in my opinion for minority businesses to really get a step up.$$So the rewarding of contracts based largely on the management capacity of the business and what it's able to--$$Yeah, to a great extent and expertise to be able to handle the work. You, now, we wouldn't give a contract to make a, a highly technical electronic gadget to a guy who's a barber. That's not his expertise. Not taking anything away from that profession, but it's just not his expertise. But--so, the people that got contracts should've had some type of background that would lend itself to the contract that they were getting, either by having worked for someone else, having the degrees in that, or having a business that had grown up in that industry. Which is interesting because ultimately what I did in my business [Dimensions International, Inc.] is totally different from what I was trained to do (laughter).$$Right. It was--I was listening to you talk, I say, well, now. So, but, now, now you were, you were at SBA for two years.$$I was.$Now, what happened that you decided to--was it--and I guess I'm, you know--now, I'm thinking as I'm hearing you tell this story, so you're awarding these million dollar contracts to people and you see what it takes to get these contracts, and you're working on a government salary. You're thinking, well, heck, if I can get on the other side of this--is that what you thought?$$No, that was not my driver when I started Dimensions [Dimensions International, Inc.]. As a matter of fact, when I left the government I did not start Dimensions right away. I had no intentions for going into the government contracting business. I became a consultant to try to continue to help other firms get government business, try to help other firms get through the maze of the SBA [U.S. Small Business Administration] machinery so to speak. So I had, no, no, no--so I wasn't motivated by, oh, that's the way they're doing it, let me get out and do it to. But, I started a consulting business and at some point in time I got--I had several clients but unfortunately they all didn't pay me and that created--that was--presented problems for me. I'm going out helping a guy get a contract and, you know, and I'm need to be paid or help to do some marketing, or open a door and, or whatever. And, so I decided, well, maybe I need to look at this a different way. So, it was at least two years after I left the government before I really started, you know, taking a look at the government in terms of an opportunity for myself.$$Okay, so by 1984, I guess, then that you--so, well, really you started Dimensions International in '85 [1985] but I guess you started planning, you know (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Around '85 [1985] is when I really began to change the concept 'cause I started out as Bob Wright and Associates as a consulting firm. But then I began to--took on a new name with a different focus around '85 [1985].$$Okay.$$And that's when I formed Dimensions International, and eventually incorporated as Dimensions International.$$Okay, now what did Dimensions do, basically?$$To start off I was just--I was in management consulting, doing studies, surveys, you know, things like that. And then one day, a firm that had outgrown the 8(a) Program [8(a) Business Development Program], the Shelton Market [ph.] was about to--then I eventually went into the 8(a) Program myself. I'm trying to get my story straight. And I went in as a management consulting firm. Eventually, this firm that was running computers for the [U.S.] Department of Agriculture had outgrown their ability to get this particular computer contract. And they asked me would I become the prime on that contract, they had the expertise and they would become a subcontractor to me. Well, that's a win-win for everybody. It's a win-win for their company because they're able to keep part of the business. It's a win for me because I'm able to get into a business I'm not in already with someone who's in it to provide the expertise. You see what I mean? And so, I was able to get into that contract--