University of Kentucky

Hall of Distinguished Alumni

Keen Johnson

Born in Lyon County, Ky., on January 12, 1896. Governor. Business Executive. Newspaperman. Publisher. University of Kentucky, A.B., 1922; honorary Doctor of Laws, 1940. Died, February 7, 1970.

Governor of Kentucky from 1939 to 1943, he also served as Under Secretary of Labor during the Truman administration.

By profession a newspaperman, he served as editor of the "Elizabethtown Mirror," 1919-21, and of the "Lawrenceburg News," 1922-25. He began his association with "The Richmond Register" in 1925 and continued as publisher and major stockholder until his death in 1970.

He was Vice President for Public Relations of Reynolds Metals Company.

He attended Valley Station School, Jefferson County; Vanderbilt Training School, Elkton, and Bryant & Stratton Business College, Louisville, before entering the University of Kentucky, where he earned the A.B. degree in 1922.

He served as Executive Secretary of the Kentucky State Democratic Committee, 1932-39, was Lieutenant Governor, 1935-39, and became Governor upon the resignation of A. B. Chandler on October 9, 1939. He was elected to a full term a few weeks later and served until 1943.

He was a member of the Board of Regents of Eastern State University, President of the State Conference of Social Workers, President of the Kentucky Press Association, and member of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association, the American Legion, VFW, 40 & 8, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Alpha Delta Sigma, Omicron Delta Kappa, the Methodist Church, the Masonic Order, Scabbard & Blade, and the National Press Club of Washington, D.C.

He was a student of Central College, Fayette, Mo., 1914-17. He was with the 354th Infantry, 89th Division American Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War I, serving as a First Lieutenant.

When he left Kentucky for Washington following his term as Governor, he left a surplus in the treasury, the first time such a balance had occurred in many years.

Keen Johnson was named to the Hall of Distinguished Alumni in February 1965.