Neal Sox Johnson

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Neal Sox Johnson (born February 14, 1933) is a retired official with the United States Farmers Home Administration who was a leader in the movement to revitalize the Republican Party in Arkansas during the 1960s and the early 1970s.


Contents

Early years

Johnson was born at home and named Oscar Neal Johnson, one of five children of Olvy Johnson (1903-1975) and the former Elsie Faye Keeling (1906-1976) in Murfreesboro, the seat of Pike County in southwestern Arkansas. Given the nickname "Sox" at Murfreesboro High School, he dropped the "Oscar" and became "Neal Sox Johnson." In 1955, he received a Bachelor of Science Education degree from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, when the institution was known as Henderson State Teachers College. He later undertook graduate studies at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. After college, he worked briefly as a draftsman and estimator for a construction company and for USX (then U.S. Steel) in Gary, Indiana, where his late sister then resided. In 1956, Johnson entered Reserve Officer Training School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He subsequently settled in Nashville in Howard County in southwestern Arkansas, where he operated a construction company and a building supply business.[1]


In 1956, Johnson married the former Carmen Louise Webb, a former employee of the U.S. District Court, while the couple lived near Dallas, Texas, and in Alexandria, Virginia. The Johnsons have three children, Olvy Johnson (named for his grandfather) of Falls Church, Virginia, in suburban Washington, D.C., Neal Steven Johnson of Temple, Texas, and Tina Elizabeth Duncan of Menifee near the resort city of Palm Springs, California. Johnson is Baptist.[1]

Supporting Goldwater and Rockefeller

In 1964, Johnson became involved in the Republican presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, in opposition to Lyndon B. Johnson, and the state gubernatorial race waged by Winthrop Rockefeller against Orval E. Faubus. Johnson served as the Republican chairman of the Howard County and for Arkansas's 3rd congressional district party organizations. He was also a member of the Arkansas State Republican Exeuctive Committee. From January 1970 to January 1973, he was the first full-time paid executive director of the state GOP.[2] During Johnson's tenure with the state party, Rockefeller was handily defeated in a bid for a third term as governor by the Democrat Dale Bumpers, but two years later Richard M. Nixon became the first Republican since Ulysses S. Grant to win the electoral votes of Arkansas.[3]

Johnson subsequently suggested that Rockefeller fared poorly in the race against Bumpers because Rockefeller had appointed many "hard-core Democrats” to state offices, boards, and commissions, rather than Republicans who had expected patronage positions.[4] In an investigation that he conducted, Johnson found that of the 476 Rockefeller appointees as of May 1970, only 86 had contributed money to the state Republican Party. Johnson’s argument was based on the possibility that more Republican appointees would have inspired the party faithful to a greater degree of campaign effort and confidence.[5]Johnson said that he had discouraged Rockefeller from running again and had wanted the party to nominate Lieutenant Governor Maurice L. "Footsie" Britt as its standard-bearer to challenge Bumpers, who emerged as an unexpected Democratic nominee by entering and winning the runoff election against former Governor Orval Faubus.[6]

Johnson took the view that the state Republican committee should have the main word on patronage appointments, but Rockefeller believed that the favorities of the local committee might not be the best individuals to hold state appointed offices. Johnson also said that the party needed more "prestigious and upstanding citizens" in each community to take an active role in the local Republican organizations.[7]

Farmers Home Administration

After his 1972 reelection, President Nixon recruited Johnson to serve in either the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, which George Romney of Michigan was vacating as the secretary, or in the Farmers Home Administration. He chose the FmHA and relocated from Arkansas to Arlington, Virginia. With the inauguration of Jimmy Carter of Georgia, however, Johnson lost the position and returned to private life and worked in Arlington, Texas (not Virginia). He returned to the FmHA with the inauguration of Ronald W. Reagan, whom he supported in 1980, and was named the deputy administrator for program operations under United States Secretary of Agriculture John Block of Illinois. In this capacity, Johnson was often called to testify before U.S. congressional committees and developed a good working relationship with former governor and then Senator Dale Bumpers, who had unseated Rockefeller in 1970 and J. William Fulbright in 1974.

In 1990, under then President George Herbert Walker Bush and with an endorsement from then U.S. Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, Johnson became the state FmHA director, based in Temple in Bell County, Texas, a position that he held until April 1993, when the Democrat Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas who unseated the first President Bush in 1992, replaced Johnson at the FmHA.[1] Thereafter, Johnson was employed through 2006 in Temple as the executive vice president of the Rural Rental Housing Association, an agency that finances housing in rural areas.[8][9][10]

Active golfer

Johnson is an avid golfer. As part of its annual convention, the Rural Rental Housing Association holds the annual Neal "Dirty Sox" Johnson Golf Classic, named in his honor.[11]

Johnson and his wife reside in Temple, Texas.


References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Statement of Neal Sox Johnson, Temple, Texas, April 2011, based on interview with author Billy Hathorn
  2. Arkansas Outlook (Arkansas Republican Party newsletter), February 1973
  3. Arkansas Secretary of State, General election returns, November 7, 1972
  4. Cathy Kunzinger Urwin, Agenda for Reform: Winthrop Rockefeller as Governor of Arkansas, 1967-71 (Fayetteville: Arkansas: Univeristy of Arkansas Press, 1991), p. 166
  5. Urwin, pp. 166-167
  6. Urwin, p. 174
  7. Urwin, pp. 171-172
  8. Fair Housing testimonials. fairhousingsolutions.com. Retrieved on August 8, 2011.
  9. Neal Johnson. corporationwiki.com. Retrieved on June 15, 2012.
  10. A Few Comments from Trainees at Past Sessions. fairhousingsolutions.com. Retrieved on June 15, 2012.
  11. RRHA of Texas. rrhatx.com. Retrieved on June 29, 2011.
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