John J. McKeithen

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John Julian McKeithen


In office
May 12, 1964 – May 9, 1972
Preceded by Jimmie Davis
Succeeded by Edwin Edwards

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner for District 3 (North Louisiana)
In office
January 1, 1955 – May 12, 1964
Preceded by Harvey Broyles
Succeeded by John Smoker Hunt, III

Louisiana State Representative for District 20 (Caldwell Parish)
In office
1948–1952
Preceded by V.E. Claunch
Succeeded by Johnnie W. Calton

Born May 28, 1918
Grayson, Louisiana
Died June 4, 1999 (aged 81)
Columbia, Louisiana
Resting place Hogan Cemetery in Caldwell Parish
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Marjorie Howell Funderburk "Margie" McKeithen (married 1942–1999, his death)
Children Six children, including Louisiana Secretary of State Walter Fox McKeithen (1946-2005)
Alma mater Louisiana State University
LSU Law School
Profession Attorney

United States Army in World War II (1942-1946), with service at Okinawa

Religion United Methodist

John Julian McKeithen (May 28, 1918 – June 4, 1999) was a Democrat who served as governor of his native Louisiana from 1964 to 1972. He was his state's first governor permitted to succeed himself under terms of a 1966 constitutional amendment which he had pushed to passage. He is remembered in particular for his efforts at industrial development, easing tensions during the civil rights movement, and the construction of the Louisiana Superdome, now Mercedes-Benz Superdome, in New Orleans.

Prior to his governorship, McKeithen had an exemplary record in World War II. He served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1948 to 1952 from his native Caldwell Parish in the northeastern portion of his state. In the House he was a strong ally of Governor Earl Long. In 1952, he McKeithen was an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor. In 1954, he was elected to the Louisiana Public Service Commission, a position that he held from 1955 until his inauguration as governor in May 1964. In this capacity, he took credit for keeping public telephone calls to five cents each.

McKeithen won his gubernatorial runoff in January 1964 over the former mayor of New Orleans, deLesseps S. Morrison, Sr. Former Governor Robert F. Kennon had been eliminated in the first primary, as had two segregationist candidates, Shelby M. Jackson and A. Roswell Thompson. McKeithen then defeated the Republican candidate, Charlton Lyons, an oilman from Shreveport, who waged his party's first serious gubernatorial bid in the 20th century. In 1967, McKeithen easily won reelection against fellow Democrat U.S. Representative John R. Rarick, a conservative from St. Francisville..

In 1972, McKeithen, still a Democrat, ran as an Independent for the U.S. Senate but was handily defeated by former State Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., of Shreveport. Johnston became the Democratic nominee when the long-term incumbent, Allen J. Ellender of Houma in Terrebonne Parish died during the campaign. The Republican candidate, New Orleans lawyer and journalist Ben C. Toledano, trailed in third place even though Richard M. Nixon was an easy presidential winner in Louisiana that year.

McKeithen's son, Walter Fox McKeithen (1946-2005), also served in the state House and then as Louisiana secretary of state from 1988 until his death from complications of as household fall. Fox McKeithen, as he was known, switched to Republican affiliation in 1989, against the recommendation of his father. He was known in particular for his efforts at historical preservation.

John, Marjorie, and Fox McKeithen, along with a second son, Jesse, are interred at the family's Hogan Cemetery near Columbia, Louisiana.