We return to our Department of Justice portrait series, with our eye now trained on the wall decor in the office of Tony West, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.
West, a California native, hewed to his roots. Opposite his desk hangs a portrait of Joseph McKenna, the 42nd Attorney General - and the first top cop from the Golden State. McKenna was AG from 1897 to 1898, leaving the Justice Department for a seat on the Supreme Court, which he filled until 1925. Earlier in his career, the Republican served in the House.
In an earlier post, we noted that Solicitor General Elena Kagan stepped outside tradition by bedecking her walls with official photos, instead of portrait paintings. Kagan chose a photo of her mentor, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Kudos, we said. Turns out, her inspiration was West, whose office is two floors directly beneath her own.
The first time Kagan visited West’s office she noticed a couple things, West told us. Kagan mentioned that her view was better — you can see the Supreme Court from the Solicitor General’s perch. And she also seemed intrigued by a framed photo of Robert F. Kennedy that West had hung on the wall adjacent his desk.
The younger brother of President John F. Kennedy was Attorney General from 1961 to 1964, when he resigned to run successfully for a Senate seat from New York. The Department of Justice headquarters in Washington is named after RFK. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968 as he was running for the Democratic nomination for president.
Kennedy’s portrait is a big catch, and naturally, it was already spoken for — his likeness hangs in Attorney General Eric Holder’s conference room. So West went with the next best thing: Kennedy’s photo. Kagan liked the idea so much, she had the official photos of four former SGs and Marshall framed and hung in her own office.
But the story doesn’t end there. When West saw the finished version of Kagan’s Marshall photo, he decided he wanted one of his own. When it’s done, a Thurgood Marshall photo will displace McKenna in the Civil Division chief office.
The Californian is going in conference room, West said.