|Birth Day:||May 28, 1918|
|Death Date:||Jun 4, 1999 (age 81)|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
As per our current Database, John McKeithen died on Jun 4, 1999 (age 81).
He was a first lieutenant during World War II, after earning his law degree from the Louisiana State University Law Center.
McKeithen was born in the village of Grayson just south of Columbia in Caldwell Parish, the son of contractor and farmer, Jesse J. McKeithen and the former DeEtte Eglin. He graduated from high school there and attended college in High Point, North Carolina. While in North Carolina he befriended Terry Sanford . In 1942, he earned his law degree from Louisiana State University Law Center in the capital city of Baton Rouge.
After the war, McKeithen started practicing law in Columbia. On June 14, 1942, he married a young teacher, Marjorie "Margie" Howell Funderburk (September 30, 1919 – March 24, 2004). She had a twin sister, Margaret Funderburk. Reared in Winnsboro, Marjorie graduated from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. She taught mathematics and chemistry at Jena High School in Jena and, thereafter, at the Ward 5 School in Caldwell Parish.
McKeithen joined the Democratic Party, still the only competitive party in the state since disenfranchisement of blacks at the turn of the century. He was elected as a Louisiana state representative in 1948. He became a prominent floor leader for Governor Earl Kemp Long. As a legislator, McKeithen consistently voted for tax increases, believing that the government had to invest in the state. In the 1948 session, he supported the implementation of the 2 percent state sales tax, a 2-cent-per-gallon increase in gasoline taxes, higher tobacco and alcohol levies, taxes on chain stores, greater severance taxes, and higher rates on electricity.
In 1952, as a 33-year-old state legislator, McKeithen was an unsuccessful Democratic primary candidate for lieutenant governor on a slate headed by gubernatorial candidate Carlos Spaht and supported by the Longs. The "anti-Longs", led that year by Judge Robert F. Kennon of Minden, won the governorship and other top positions. In a runoff election, McKeithen lost the lieutenant governor's race to C. E. "Cap" Barham of Ruston, who had originally run on the gubernatorial intra-party ticket with U.S. Representative Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr., of New Orleans. Barham switched to the Kennon ticket in the runoff against McKeithen. Once in office, Kennon and Barham were often at odds.
McKeithen was elected to the Louisiana Public Service Commission, serving from 1955 to 1964. In the 1954 Democratic primary for the PSC, he defeated incumbent Harvey Broyles and a second challenger, Louis S. "Buck" Hooper (1902–1984). Because Louisiana was essentially a one-party Democratic state due to the disenfranchisement of blacks since the turn of the century, McKeithen was unopposed in the general election. During the primary campaign, he had called for an investigation regarding the disparity in charges between in-state and out-of-state long-distance telephone calls, having noted that it was cheaper to call from Shreveport to Jackson, Mississippi, than from Shreveport to Monroe.
McKeithen represented Huey Long's old north Louisiana district, and was described as making populist attacks on the Southern Bell Telephone Company. He was credited with preserving the traditional nickel telephone call, when most states had raised rates to a dime or higher at pay phone outlets. (In the early 21st century, this service is very rare in the age of individual cellular phones.) In the 1960 Democratic primary, McKeithen defeated Hooper again.
Edward Kennon, a nephew of former Governor Robert Kennon and a Minden contractor who later held McKeithen's former seat on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, campaigned actively against McKeithen in the 1963–1964 gubernatorial race. Kennon recalled that McKeithen in the 1960 PSC campaign boasted of his support from both organized labor and its long-term president Victor Bussie and the NAACP. At the time, candidates in Louisiana were identified on the ballot by race.
In the first primary in December 1963, McKeithen faced a wide array of intra-party opponents, including former Governor Robert Kennon; Shelby M. Jackson, who was a segregationist Education Superintendent; and Addison Roswell Thompson, a taxicab operator from New Orleans who was known to be a high-ranking Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Frank Voelker, Jr., of Lake Providence, the former chairman of the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission, ran too but did poorly in polls, and withdrew to become Kennon's campaign manager. Kennon finished in fourth place in the primary.
After he left office in the spring of 1972, McKeithen sought the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Allen J. Ellender, a long-term Democratic incumbent. The filing deadline had closed for the Democratic primary, so McKeithen ran as an Independent in the general election. He had to explain to Democratic-registered voters, the great majority of the Louisiana electorate at the time, why they should vote for him. In 1963, he had stressed voting by party affiliation as a reason why registered Democrats should support him against the Republican candidate Lyons. He lost to the Democratic nominee, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., a former Louisiana state Senator.
McKeithen was inaugurated in Baton Rouge on May 12, 1964. Judge James E. Bolin of Minden administered the oath of office. C. H. "Sammy" Downs, an aide and adviser to the governor, was the master of ceremonies for the festivities.
During the fall campaign McKeithen endorsed the election of Humphrey for the U.S. presidency. He had been neutral in the 1964 contest between Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry M. Goldwater. The support for Humphrey brought McKeithen into conflict with local backers of George C. Wallace, a former Democratic governor of Alabama who ran on the American Independent Party ticket, which opposed the civil rights laws that Congress had passed. McKeithen ally C. H. "Sammy" Downs worked in the Wallace campaign.
McKeithen, presiding over Louisiana during the turbulent civil rights era, had an ambiguous record on race relations. He was elected in 1964 as a segregationist and used race-baiting rhetoric in his campaign. He fought publicly with President Lyndon Johnson's Office of Economic Opportunity and tried to appoint segregationist Shelby Jackson to head the state's management of federal War on Poverty funds. As late as 1965, McKeithen publicly stated his support for segregation as the best system for Louisiana, but he later moderated his views on race relations.
He personally intervened to stem racial violence in Bogalusa in 1965. After repeated attacks by the KKK on civil rights activists in this mill town and resistance to change authorized by national legislation, African Americans founded a chapter of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, an armed self-defense group. That summer there were numerous violent confrontations. McKeithen established a Biracial Commission on Human Rights, Relations, and Responsibilities to work on easing tensions and managing transition. He appointed Israel Augustine and Ernest "Dutch" Morial as Louisiana's first African-American judges since Reconstruction. But during 1967 disturbances, McKeithen took a hard line, threatening to have authorities shoot looters and rioters. McKeithen later became a national spokesperson for the opposition to busing school children to achieve integration.
When McKeithen left the PSC after being elected as governor, he appointed John S. Hunt, II (1928–2001), of Monroe, a nephew of Governors Huey and Earl Long, to finish his term. In 1966 Hunt won a six-year term on the PSC in the Democratic runoff primary, defeating State Representative John Sidney Garrett of Haynesville. McKeithen supported the choice of Garrett as Speaker of the Louisiana House.
McKeithen's two terms as governor were characterized by economic expansion and job creation. He pushed for expansion of the state's industrial sector and called a special session to create a Labor Management Commission of Inquiry to resolve a strike in Baton Rouge early in his first term. He offered tax concessions to bring new industry to the state, particularly along the Mississippi River corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. In 1966 and 1967, he conducted a "right to profit" campaign. After he antagonized organized labor, the governor received death threats, and a bomb exploded in the state senate chamber.
When McKeithen was elected, Louisiana governors were limited by law to one term, as the legislature wanted to retain control. Politicians had to sit out a term if they wanted to seek second or third terms as governor. McKeithen sponsored "Amendment 1" in the 1966 general election, which voters approved. He could seek a succeeding second term in the 1967–1968 election cycle.
McKeithen's reelection campaign of 1967 was, for all practical purposes, held on November 8, 1966, when voters approved his "pet" Amendment 1, which for the first time allowed Louisiana governors to succeed themselves—for one additional four-year term. They could also sit out a term and return for a third or fourth term thereafter, as Edwin Washington Edwards did in 1983 and 1991. In September 1966, McKeithen announced while at the Southern Governors Conference in Gilbertsville, Kentucky, that he would run again if Amendment 1 were approved.
McKeithen named Aubrey Young as his aide-de-camp and as a colonel in the Louisiana State Police. He removed Young in 1967 after reports surfaced of a bribery attempt and involvement with mobster Carlos Marcello. Life Magazine reported that when McKeithen threatened to fire Young over the proposed bribery, Young resigned.
In 1967, McKeithen elevated Ralph Perlman, a business graduate of Columbia University in New York, as the state budget director. Perlman held this position for twenty-one years, under four governors of both parties.
He named the Louisiana Tech University English professor Robert C. Snyder, who worked to establish the Lincoln Parish Library, to the state board of library commissioners. In 1967, McKeithen named David Wade, a retired Lieutenant General of the Air Force, as director of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The next year, he assigned him as adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.
McKeithen considered returning the colorful state Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc of Abbeville to the position of Senate President Pro Tempore, a slot that LeBlanc had filled from 1948 to 1952. The governor changed his mind as opposition developed; LeBlanc was considered politically damaged from the 1950s by his promotion of the patent medicine Hadacol. McKeithen tapped E. W. Gravolet of Pointe à la Hache as the Senate President Pro Tempore. Vail M. Delony of East Carroll Parish was the Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives until his death in 1967, when the position passed to John Sidney Garrett of Claiborne Parish.
Former Governor George Wallace of Alabama urged McKeithen in 1967 to take the leadership against the civil rights movement, but he declined, having told Wallace, "I just don't feel as strongly about it as you do, George."
McKeithen was so popular that he easily took the 1967 Democratic Party primary. His main opponent was freshman U.S. Representative John Rarick, a conservative Indiana-born politician from the Sixth District of St. Francisville. He was backed by elements of the Ku Klux Klan. Rarick did not warm to rural voters, and his strict constitutionalist views did not appeal to many in the statewide electorate. People responded positively to McKeithen's folksy mannerisms and trademark "Won't you 'hep me?" appeal. Aware of heightened feelings among many in the state against civil rights, which had achieved national legislation authorizing enforcement of the franchise for African Americans, Republicans did not field a candidate for governor in the general election on February 6, 1968.
In 1968, McKeithen launched a campaign to remove deadheads, or workers performing few productive tasks, from the state payroll. He faced a $61 million shortfall in the upcoming budget. In 1970 he gained passage of a 2-cent sales tax increase to fund higher pay for teachers and state employees. He worked to expand construction on many public college and university campuses. He reformed the Department of Corrections and improved conditions at Angola State Penitentiary.
In 1968, McKeithen suspended the controversial, colorful Sheriff Jessel Ourso of Iberville Parish, who was indicted in a repeated series of federal and state corruption charges. Ourso received acquittals or hung juries in all of them. He died in office in 1978 at the age of forty-six.
McKeithen's other close advisors included former State Senator William R. "Billy" Boles, Sr., a high-powered Monroe attorney and banker, and Theodore "Ted" Jones, who advised him on the newly established federal Medicare program. McKeithen also depended strongly on Senator Sixty Rayburn of Bogalusa, a favorite of organized labor, and the Democrat constituency groups. He named Leon Gary, former mayor of Houma, as his director of the Department of Public Works. In 1969, he replaced Gary with his executive counsel C. H. "Sammy" Downs, who served until 1972.
In 1969, McKeithen sent 250 Louisiana National Guard troops into Baton Rouge to support a curfew declared by Mayor-President, W. W. Dumas. He was trying to suppress rioting that had broken out after police fatally shot a fleeing 17-year-old black suspect. The officer was temporarily suspended from the force, as was customary. Dumas said he would fully support police in such instances.
In 1970, McKeithen said that he believed national social unrest had become especially harmful to the nation. In a civic address to the American Legion in Minden, he said:
In his last days as governor in the spring of 1972, McKeithen spoke before the AFL-CIO convention. He credited union president Victor Bussie with having helped him to achieve what McKeithen considered the landmarks of his tenure in office: industrial expansion, improved race relations, prison reform, and increases in the pay of teachers and state employees. The latter required an unpopular increase in 1970 from 2 to 3 cents in the state sales tax.
The Republican Senate nominee in the contest was Ben C. Toledano, a lawyer and journalist who had run for mayor of New Orleans in 1970. A fourth candidate was Hall Lyons, a Lafayette oilman and the younger son of Charlton Lyons. Hall Lyons left the Louisiana GOP to run for the Senate as the nominee of the American Independent Party. George C. Wallace of Alabama had run as an AIP candidate for U.S. President in 1968 against Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.
In 1971, McKeithen appointed Lake Charles attorney Henry L. Yelverton to a 14th Judicial District judgeship. Later, Yelverton served on the Third Circuit Court of Appeal.
In the 1972 and 1976 campaigns he supported the candidacy of his long-time friend, former North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford.
The McKeithen administration had some instances of corruption. In January 1972, former public works director C. H. "Sammy" Downs, who had served as a state senator from Alexandria, was indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the sale of voting machines to the state. McKeithen's commissioner of administration, W. W. McDougall, was indicted in March 1972 for giving false statements to a grand jury in Alexandria concerning an investigation into insurance company kickbacks to state legislators.
In 1972 Republicans Richard M. Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew easily carried Louisiana in the presidential election, as white conservatives in Louisiana and other southern states were voting more solidly for national Republican candidates. (white conservatives have since mostly shifted into the Republican Party.)
McKeithen faced legislative opposition by a group of mostly young reformers known as the "Young Turks." One of their leaders was Robert G. "Bob" Jones, a state representative from Lake Charles and the son of former Governor Sam Houston Jones. Jones objected to state funding of the Superdome in New Orleans and many state bond projects. The Young Turks favored a "pay-as-you-go" approach, rather than too much bonded indebtedness. Jones ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1975.
In 1983, Governor David C. Treen, a Republican, appointed the Democrat McKeithen to the LSU Board of Supervisors. He served until 1988, resigning because of exhaustion and a heavy work schedule. In his later years, McKeithen practiced law in Columbia and in Baton Rouge with his granddaughter, Marjorie. She was named for his wife, her grandmother. In 1991, McKeithen made headlines by resigning from his local country club after it barred a black high school golfer from playing in a tournament there.
The McKeithens' younger son, W. Fox McKeithen (1946–2005), became an attorney and politician like his father. He was elected to the Louisiana legislature, serving two terms (1984–1988). In 1987 he was elected as secretary of state, serving 1988–2005. After his first election as secretary of state in 1987, he switched his party affiliation to Republican. Both his father and daughter, who were staunchly Democratic, were surprised. His daughter ran for Louisiana's 6th congressional district seat in Baton Rouge in 1998. When Fox McKeithen died in 2005, Sam Hanna Sr. wrote a moving column about his relationship with all the McKeithen family.
In 1993, McKeithen was among the first thirteen inductees into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield. Fox McKeithen was inducted posthumously in 2006. John McKeithen died in 1999.
In April 2016, nearly half a century after events, The Monroe News-Star reported that McKeithen in the summer of 1965 arranged for $10,000 of private funds to be sent to Bogalusa to be divided equally between leaders of the Ku Klux Klan leadership and the Deacons for Defense, to keep peace during racial demonstrations in Washington Parish. McKeithen's counselor, Gus Weill, said that the payments "bought peace". The payments were made through the now defunct Fountain Insurance Agency in Baton Rouge, the owner of which was a member of the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission. McKeithen supporters helped raise the funds for this purpose. The unnamed agent mailed "insurance checks" to the recipients' homes and was later reimbursed by the Sovereignty Commission, since disbanded.
John and his wife Margie McKeithen had six children together.
Currently, John McKeithen is 104 years, 4 months and 8 days old. John McKeithen will celebrate 105th birthday on a Sunday 28th of May 2023. Below we countdown to John McKeithen upcoming birthday.