|Name||Paul B. Johnson, Jr.|
Hattiesburg, Mississippi , United States
|| January 23, 1916
|Died||October 14, 1985
Jan 27, 2018 10:27pm
|Info||Paul Burney Johnson, Jr. (January 23, 1916 – October 14, 1985) was a United States Democratic Mississippi politician and son of former Mississippi Governor Paul B. Johnson, Sr.. |
A graduate of the University of Mississippi and its law school, Johnson was a practicing attorney in Jackson and Hattiesburg, marrying his college sweetheart Dorothy Power in 1941. He then served in the South Pacific with the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.
Upon his release from the service, he looked to follow in his father's political footsteps, serving as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi from 1948 to 1951 . Twice during his tenure and once more in 1955, Johnson ran for governor, losing all three times. In 1947, prior to his first try for the governor's mansion, he ran for an open U.S. Senate seat, but lost.
In 1959, he ran for lieutenant governor and won, serving under segregationist icon Governor Ross Barnett. He played a prominent role in trying to prevent James Meredith from enrolling at Ole Miss in 1962, physically blocking federal marshals escorting Meredith.
Bolstered by his segregationist appeal, Johnson ran for governor once again in 1963, defeating former governor James P. Coleman by tying his opponent to President John F. Kennedy's proposed civil rights legislation. Also a part of his stump speech was the line, "You know what the N.A.A.C.P. stands for: Niggers, alligators apes, coons and possums." In the general election, he faced the first strong Republican candidate for Mississippi governor, Rubel Phillips, that any Democrat had encountered since Reconstruction in 1876.
In his inaugural address, he chose, "Pursuit of Excellence" as his term's theme and also stated, "Hate, or prejudice, or ignorance, will not lead Mississippi while I sit in the governor's chair." That comment had a hollow ring five months later, when during the investigation of the three missing civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in June 1964, Governor Johnson offered little or no help. He praised Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence A. Rainey and deputy sheriff Cecil Price. He also dismissed fears that the trio had been murdered by stating, "Maybe they went to Cuba," a reference to the Communist ties that were often used to try and discredit that movement.
However, after seeing the potentially damaging effects on the state's image and business climate, Johnson toned down the vitriolic rhetoric and adopted moderate policies, including requesting that the state comply with the newly-passed Voting Rights Act in 1965 . Moves such as this were seen as major reasons for the decrease in racial violence and solid economic growth, with Johnson working hard to pass a $130 million bond issue to finance a major expansion of the Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula. In addition, his fight to repeal the prohibition on alcohol in 1966, a state law for the previous 58 years that had largely been ignored by moonshiners, was another issue that gained him popular appeal.
Following the end of his term, Johnson left politics, then suffered a stroke in the late 1970s. In his final years, he continued to struggle with his health before suffering a fatal heart attack at his home in Hattiesburg.