Arkansas Senator and state Supreme Court Justice, James D. “Jim” Johnson has been portrayed as one of the most outspoken racist politicians of Arkansas’s history. His legacy includes an Amendment to the Arkansas Constitution that gave Arkansas the right to nullify federal law. He is also remembered for being a constant thorn in the side of Governor Orval Faubus.
A look at the evidence surrounding Johnson’s political career suggests that Johnson was not purely motivated by race. Johnson started the White Citizens’ Council of Arkansas in 1955 in response to the integration of the Hoxie School District. Hoxie became Johnson’s soapbox and the Citizens’ Council became his campaign vehicle. The tactics he used to fight integration in Hoxie were unlike those of other Arkansas segregationists. Instead of citing race as the reason for his campaign in Hoxie, Johnson brought the Second Red Scare to Arkansas. He appealed to a wider audience by accusing integrationists of being communists.
Using primary source information, this presentation outlines the methods used by Johnson in 1955 as he started his campaign for governor. Marie Williams is currently finishing her Master’s Degree in History from Arkansas Tech University. She is an Arkansas native who lives in Dover with her husband and their two children.