John J. McKeithen 1964-1972
Born: May 28, 1918 in Grayson, Louisiana
Political Affiliation: Democrat
Religious Affiliation: Methodist
Education: High Point College (North Carolina); LSU; LSU Law School
Career Prior to Term: State Representative, Public Service Commissioner and Chairman of the Interstate Oil Compact Commission
How He Became Governor: Elected in 1964 and re-elected in 1967
Career after Term: Returned to practicing law and farming in Columbia, Louisiana; managed oil exploration company; appointed to LSU Board of Supervisors in 1983
Died: June 4, 1999 in Columbia, Louisiana
John 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 tension.
Chiefly, 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 passage of two constitutional amendments, one which changed the economic landscape of Louisiana, the other affecting the political life 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, 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.
McKeithen died on June 4, 1999, at the age of 81, in his hometown of Columbia, and is buried there.