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  Johnston, J. Bennett
NameJ. Bennett Johnston
Shreveport, Louisiana , United States
Born June 10, 1932 (88 years)
ContributorNot in Public Domain
Last ModifedRBH
Sep 14, 2015 03:33am
Tags Baptist -
InfoJohn Bennett Johnston, Jr. (born June 10, 1932), is a Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist who was a U.S. Democratic Party politician and United States Senator from Louisiana from 1972 until 1997.

Johnston, born in Shreveport, graduated from C.E. Byrd High School. He attended the United States Military Academy. Johnston was very narrowly elected in an at-large campaign to the Louisiana State House of Representatives in 1964, along with two Republicans, Morley A. Hudson and Taylor W. O'Hearn, and two other Democrats from Caddo Parish, Algie Brown (1910-2004) and Frank Fulco, Sr.

He moved up to the Louisiana Senate in 1968, having secured a solid victory in the general election. Johnston ran for governor of Louisiana in 1971 and lost very narrowly to Edwin Washington Edwards in the Democratic Party runoff election.

Winning campaigns of 1972, 1978, and 1984

Johnston challenged Allen J. Ellender for Democratic renomination to the U.S. Senate in 1972. Ellender died during the campaign, and Johnston, with powerful name identification stemming from his gubernatorial bid only months earlier, won the primary easily. Johnston secured 79.4 percent of primary ballots, but 9.3 percent voted for the deceased Ellender. Johnston then defeated Republican Ben C. Toledano, a New Orleans attorney, and former Governor John McKeithen of Columbia, a fellow Democrat running as an independent in the general election. Johnston received 598,987 votes (55.2 percent) to McKeithen's 250,161 (23.1 percent), and Toledano's 206,846 (19.1 percent). Another 28,910 voters (2.6 percent) chose the American Independent Party candidate, Hall M. Lyons, then of Lafayette, son of Louisiana Republican pioneer Charlton Lyons. (The position was filled from July to November 1972 by Governor Edwards' first wife, Elaine Schwartzburg Edwards, who served as an interim senator.)

In office, Senator Johnston cultivated good relationships with the Louisiana media, for he realized that their collective portrayal of him would impact his electoral future. The state's newspaper gave Johnston wide coverage. The Alexandria Daily Town Talk's managing editor, Adras LaBorde, for instance gave wide coverage to both Johnston and colleague Russell B. Long.

In 1978, Johnston defeated then Democrat, later Republican, State Representative Louis Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge in the jungle primary, 498,773 (59.4 percent) to 340,891 (40.6 percent). In 1984, he secured 838,181 votes (85.7 percent) to Republican Robert Max Ross's 86,546 (8.9 percent). (A second minor candidate polled 5.4 percent.) Ross had also been a minor primary opponent to David C. Treen in the first ever Republican gubernatorial primary in 1971.

Johnston v. Duke

Johnston's closest re-election race was in 1990 against former Ku Klux Klansman and Republican candidate David Duke, who was not endorsed by his party's leadership. One of his Senate Republican colleagues, John C. Danforth of Missouri, endorsed Johnston. Many other Republicans also broke party ranks to support Johnston that year. Johnston defeated Duke in the jungle primary, 53-44 percent. Johnston retired after his fourth term ended in 1997; he was succeeded by his preferred candidate, fellow Democrat Mary Landrieu, daughter of the Carter HUD Secretary and former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu.

A "conservative" within the Democratic Caucus

A conservative within the Democratic caucus, Johnston broke with his party on some important issues. He voted to authorize use of military force in Iraq in 1991 and also in favor of the narrow confirmation of Clarence Thomas to be Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. However, in 1987, he had voted against President Reagan's choice of former Judge Robert H. Bork to be on the high court.

Johnston was one of the few Senate Democrats to vote against the Budget Act of 1993, which was strongly supported by President Clinton and many prominent members of the Democratic Party. Johnston was a firm advocate of the Flag Desecration Amendment while opposing abortion and most gun control measures. However, Johnston vote repeatedly against the Balanced Budget Amendment and giving the President the line-item veto, both of which were measures strongly favored by fiscal conservatives in both parties. On foreign policy issues, he frequently voted with more liberal Democrats, like terminating restrictions on travel to Cuba, and support for the U.N. and foreign aid measures.

Losing out for majority leader to George Mitchell

In 1989, Johnston sought the position of majority leader but lost to George J. Mitchell of Maine. From 1972 to 1987, Johnston's Louisiana colleague was Russell Long. The two agreed on many issues and formed a close working relationship to deliver federal spending to Louisiana. On Long's death, Johnston delivered a moving eulogy at the funeral. Johnston continued the same kind of partnership with Long's successor, former Senator John B. Breaux, who served from 1987-2005.

Since leaving the Senate, Johnston has been a Washington-based lobbyist. He was a maximum contributor in 2004 to the presidential campaign of his former colleague Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. His son-in-law, former Democratic Representative Timothy J. Roemer of Indiana, was a member of the 9/11 Commission.

In 1997, Johnston was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield. He is a member of the Baptist Church; his wife, the former Mary Gunn, is Catholic.


Billy Hathorn, "The Republican Party in Louisiana, 1920-1980," Master's thesis (1980), Northwestern State University at Natchitoches

[Link] of Tim Roemer), a Senator from Louisiana; born in Shreveport, Caddo Parrish, La., June 10, 1932; educated in the public schools of Shreveport, La.; attended Washington and Lee University and United States Military Academy; graduated, Louisiana State University Law School, Baton Rouge, La., 1956; admitted to the Louisiana bar in 1956 and commenced practice in Shreveport; served in the United States Army, Judge Advocate General Corps, Germany, 1956-1959; member, Louisiana house of representatives 1964-1968, serving as floor leader; member, State senate 1968-1972; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate, November 7, 1972, for the term commencing January 3, 1973; subsequently appointed by the Governor to complete the unexpired term caused by the death of Allen J. Ellender, for the term ending January 3, 1973, left vacant by the resignation of Elaine S. Edwards; reelected in 1978, 1984, and again in 1990 and served from November 14, 1972 to January 3, 1997; not a candidate for reelection in 1996; chairman, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (Ninety-fourth Congress), Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (One Hundredth through One Hundred Third Congresses); engaged in the consulting and development businesses.


Title Purchase Contributor

Start Date End Date Type Title Contributor

Date Category Headline Article Contributor

Importance? 7.50000 Average

Son J. Bennett Johnston III 0000-
Daughter Sally Johnston Roemer 0000-

  10/06/1990 LA US Senate Won 53.93% (+10.42%)
  11/29/1988 Majority Leader Lost 25.45% (-23.64%)
  09/29/1984 LA US Senate Won 85.75% (+76.90%)
  11/07/1978 LA US Senate Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  09/16/1978 LA US Senate - Open Primary Won 59.40% (+18.80%)
  11/14/1972 LA US Senate Appointment Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  11/07/1972 LA US Senate Won 55.21% (+32.15%)
  08/19/1972 LA US Senate - D Primary Won 79.44% (+68.19%)
  12/18/1971 LA Governor - D Runoff Lost 49.81% (-0.39%)
  11/06/1971 LA Governor - D Primary Won 17.67% (+0.00%)
LA District 2 - Runoff - Dec 09, 2006 D Karen Carter Peterson
LA District 2 - Nov 07, 2006 D Karen Carter Peterson
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Jul 29, 1994 D Stephen G. Breyer
U.S. Surgeon General - Sep 07, 1993 D M. Joycelyn Elders
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Aug 03, 1993 D Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Oct 15, 1991 R Clarence Thomas
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Oct 02, 1990 R David Souter
LA US President - D Primary - Mar 08, 1988 D Al Gore
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Feb 03, 1988 R Anthony M. Kennedy
US President - D Primaries - Jul 01, 1988 D Al Gore
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Oct 23, 1987 NPA Reject
LA US Senate - Primary - Sep 27, 1986 D John B. Breaux
Supreme Court - Chief Justice - Sep 17, 1986 R William H. Rehnquist
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Sep 17, 1986 R Antonin Scalia
US Ambassador to Chile - Mar 02, 1982 NPA Reject
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Sep 21, 1981 R Sandra Day O'Connor
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Dec 17, 1975 R John Paul Stevens
US Secretary of the Interior - Jun 11, 1975 R Stanley K. Hathaway