Back to former Kentucky governors
Keen Johnson

Gov. Keen Johnson

  • October 9, 1939 - December 7, 1943
  • Democratic
  • January 12, 1896
  • February 7, 1970
  • Kentucky
  • Central College (Missouri); University of Kentucky
  • Married Eunice Nichols; one child
  • Succeeded
  • Army


KEEN JOHNSON was born in Brandon’s Chapel in Lyon County, Kentucky on January 12, 1896. His education was attained at Vanderbilt Preparatory School for Boys, at Central College in Missouri, and at the University of Kentucky, where he graduated in 1922. His education was temporarily interrupted when he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War I. He was a first lieutenant with the 354th Infantry, 89th Division of the American Expeditionary Force, serving in Europe for a little over a year. After his military service, he finished his education, and then embarked in a career in journalism. In 1920, Johnson bought and edited the Elizabethtown Mirror, was the editor of the Lawrenceburg News from 1922 to 1925, and was the co-publisher and editor of the Richmond Register from 1925 until 1939. Johnson entered politics in 1932, winning his election as secretary of the Democratic State Central and Executive Committee, a position he held until 1939. He also served as the lieutenant governor of Kentucky from 1935 to 1939. On October 9, 1939, Governor A.B. Chandler resigned from office, and Johnson, who was lieutenant governor at the time, assumed the duties of the governorship. He was elected to his own four-year term in November 1939. During his tenure, legislative redistricting was endorsed, construction on a new state mental hospital was initiated, a minimum foundation educational fund was sanctioned, and the Tennessee Valley Act was instituted. Johnson left office on December 7, 1943. He joined the Reynolds Metals Company and became the vice president of public relations in 1945. He also served in the newly created position of Undersecretary of Labor from 1946 to 1947, was a member of the State Democratic National Committee from 1940 to 1948, and was appointed to the State Board of Education in 1961 and 1964. Governor Keen Johnson died on February 7, 1970, and was buried at the Richmond Cemetery in Richmond Kentucky.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Recent Kentucky Governors