John J. McKeithen
John Julian McKeithen (1918-1999) was a Democrat who served as governor of 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 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.
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 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.