Paul B. Johnson Jr., 69, a former governor of Mississippi whose moderate policies were credited with a decrease in violence tied to racial desegregation, died Oct. 14 at a hospital in Hattiesburg, Miss., after an apparent heart attack. He lived in Hattiesburg.
A Democrat and son of former governor Paul B. Johnson Sr., he was the state's chief executive from 1964 to 1968 after serving a term as lieutenant governor during the administration of Ross Barnett.
Gov. Johnson's approach was credited with ending violence that had marked the middle years of the civil rights struggle. He deplored violence and chose "Pursuit of Excellence" as the theme of his four-year term.
But he was unable to head off violence early in his administration. Nightrider attacks, church burnings and beatings erupted as thousands of civil rights workers flocked to Mississippi from across the nation to join local blacks in what became known as "Freedom Summer -- 1964," the year Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were killed on a dark and isolated road in Neshoba County.
If his governorship began in days of racial turmoil, it evolved into a time of economic and industrial growth, including approval of a $130 million bond issue to finance a major expansion of Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula.
Gov. Johnson was a graduate of the University of Mississippi and its law school. He practiced law in Jackson and Hattiesburg and served with the Marine Corps in the South Pacific during World War II before entering politics. He ran losing races for governor in 1947 and for the U.S. Senate in a special election the same year. He then spent three years as assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of Mississippi.
He also lost gubernatorial bids in 1951 and 1955. He won the post in 1963, defeating Reubel Phillips, Mississippi's first serious Republican gubernatorial candidate of this century.
Gov. Johnson served as a member of the executive committee of the National Governors' Conference and as vice chairman of the Southern Governors' Conference. In 1966, he was elected chairman of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Authority.
He married his college sweetheart, Dorothy Power, in the governor's mansion in 1941. They had three children.