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Born in 1929 in Virginia, Robert Nelson West took the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) presidency during a time of immense financial stress and saved the the organization from bankruptcy. In 1971, West gave consent for Beacon Press to print the Pentagon Papers, immersing the UUA deep into the controversy over the Vietnam War.

West created the newspaper the Unitarian Universalist World (now the UU World magazine), the first UUA publication to be sent to every member of a UUA congregation. He also oversaw the development of the first UUA sexual education program, Human Sexuality, and created the Office of Gay Concerns (now the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender (BGLT) Concerns).

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