May 28, 1918 - June 4, 1999
—Governor of Louisiana 1964-1972 —
"I wasn't born to material wealth, nor do I have claim to an aristocratic name. But if I am elected governor, it will prove any mother's son can aspire to the highest political office of the state. I've come this far because you the people have given me your support, with all the professional politicians, power brokers and big money people fighting me every step of the way. Because I owe you so much, you can be assured when I raise my hand to take the oath of office as Governor of Louisiana there will be a prayer in my heart that God will always guide me to do what is best for the state, and all the people in it. We'll win this race but I need your help. Won't you help me?"
McKeithen on the Campaign Trail in 1964.Louisiana State Legislator1948-1952Louisiana Public Service Commissioner1954-1963John J. McKeithen
married Marjorie Howell Funderburk and had six children: Jesse Jay, Walter Fox, Rebecca Ann, Melissa Sue, Pamela Clare and Jenneva Maude. McKeithen employed a folksy plea - "Won't you he'p me?" - with a promise to "clean up the mess in Baton Rouge" to win election as Governor in 1964. McKeithen's stance as a reformer combined with his Longite roots in northern Louisiana attracted followers of both the Long and anti-Long factions. His first term promoted reform with a
state code of ethics, an extension of civil service, completion of an inventory of state property, and cooling the heat of racial conflict. McKeithen established a biracial Louisiana Commission on Human Relations to reduce racial tensions.Mainly, McKeithen concentrated on selling Louisiana to the nation during his first four years. His effort to attract business and industry became a personal crusade. McKeithen fought for the passage of two constitutional amendments, one which changed the economic landscape of Louisiana, the other affecting the political lie of the state: voters approved the construction of the "Superdome"
in New Orleans and approved a measure allowing governors to serve two consecutive terms.His second term featured reform of the Department of Corrections, increased highway construction and the establishment of a uniform insurance program for state employees. Following his second term, Governor McKeithen
retired to his farm in Caldwell Parish, where he continued practicing law and managing an oil and gas exploration company. He later established a law practice in Baton Rouge, as well. A devout supporter of Louisiana State University, he was appointed to that University's Board of Supervisors in 1983. In 1989, Governor McKeithen put his full support behind Patrick F. Taylor's efforts to pass the first merit based college tuition program,
The Taylor Plan, now known in Louisiana as TOPS, which has been copied around the nation.McKeithen
died on June 4, 1999 at the age of 81 in his hometown of Columbia and is buried there.
- Enlisted 1942 in the U.S.Army
- Served as 1st Lieutenant in the U.S.Army 77th Infantry Division
- World War II, Pacific Theater
- Combat Veteran in Campaigns of Guam, Leyte, Okinawa, & IE Shima
- Awarded two Bronze Stars
- Honorable Discharge 1946