Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Randall Woods

Committee Member

Patrick Williams

Second Committee Member

Michael Pierce


Arkansas History, Arkansas Politics, Central High Crisis, Massive Resistance, Southern Politics, Southern Red Scare


James D. “Jim” Johnson was an Arkansas politician best known for his racism, commitment to segregation, and failed gubernatorial campaigns. Johnson makes appearances in some of Arkansas’ most notorious political moments in the 20th century. He campaigned for the Dixiecrats in 1948, led the state’s first major protest against integration in 1955, pushed Governor Orval Faubus to become a segregationist in 1956, and lost multiple elections in the 1960s. Although not victorious at the polls, Johnson had a tremendous influence on Arkansas politics in the middle of the 20th century. He made integration a viable political issue in the state and brought the politics of massive resistance and the Southern Red Scare to Arkansas. Johnson was connected to and supported by some of the South’s most well-known segregationists, including James Eastland of Mississippi, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, and George Wallace of Alabama. These men campaigned, raised money, and mentored him, but they could not get the young man elected in Arkansas. Though he never repented, Johnson adapted to the political environment and took on the mantle of “Justice Jim,” leaving behind the politics of massive resistance. Although his politics are distasteful and racist, it is vital that Johnson’s career is remembered, because in order to appreciate the heroes you need to understand the villains. He was always the rabble rouser, the forever candidate who Arkansas’ voters rejected, despite the fact that many embraced his racist, segregationist ideology. This dissertation seeks to bring Jim Johnson to the forefront of 20th century Arkansas politics by providing an account of his early career and his use of the politics of massive resistance.

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