Arkansas gubernatorial election, 1966

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Arkansas gubernatorial election, 1966

← 1964 November 8, 1966 1968 →

  Winthrop Aldrich Rockefeller.jpg
Nominee Winthrop Rockefeller James D. Johnson
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 306,324 257,203
Percentage 54.36% 45.64%

Governor before election

Orval E. Faubus

Elected Governor

Winthrop Rockefeller

The Arkansas gubernatorial election of November 8, 1966 was the first time since Reconstruction that a member of the Republican Party was elected governor.

The same year, during a midterm election, Republicans made some gains in the traditionally Democratic southern stronghold – including winning the governorship in Florida (also first time since Reconstruction), and narrowly losing the gubernatorial race in Georgia (when a GOP candidate won a plurality, but the Democratic-controlled legislature selected their own candidate).

Democratic primary[edit]

Popular and powerful six-term (since 1955) incumbent Orval E. Faubus decided against seeking re-election. "Justice Jim" Johnson, a political ally of George C. Wallace of Alabama, ran a segregationist campaign with support of the White Citizens Council. A decade earlier, Johnson had run in the Democratic primary against Faubus, another segregationist, whom he accused of working behind the scenes for racial integration.


  • Thomas Dale Alford, former U.S. Representative and candidate for governor in 1962
  • Sam Boyce, attorney
  • Brooks Hays, former U.S. Representative and candidate for governor in 1930
  • Frank Holt, State Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • James D. "Justice Jim" Johnson, State Supreme Court Associate Justice and candidate for governor in 1956
  • Raymond Rebsamen, insurance executive and Ford dealer
  • Kenneth S. Sulcer, state senator


July 26 Democratic primary results[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic James D. Johnson 105,607 25.14
Democratic Frank Holt 92,711 22.07
Democratic Brooks Hays 64,814 15.43
Democratic Thomas Dale Alford 53,531 12.74
Democratic Sam Boyce 49,744 11.84
Democratic Raymond Rebsamen 35,607 8.48
Democratic Kenneth S. Sulcer 18,051 4.30
Total votes 420,065 100.00
August 9 Democratic runoff results[2]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic James D. Johnson 210,543 51.86
Democratic Frank Holt 195,442 48.14
Total votes 405,985 100.00

Holt was supported by many younger, more liberal, Democrats, such as future governor and U.S. President Bill Clinton, who served as his campaign aide though he was not old enough to vote at the time.

Republican primary[edit]

A northeastern native, multimillionaire and scion of a prominent political/business family Winthrop Rockefeller was nominated with over 96% of the vote over Gus McMillan of Sheridan. Charges abounded that McMillan, a lifelong Democrat, was planted in the race by Faubus in order to force the Republicans to hold an expensive and needless primary. Rockefeller had been the GOP nominee in the 1964 election.


Rockefeller was an unusual candidate – an eastern establishment member and moderate-to-liberal party wing member (such as his brother, Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, an unofficial leader of this wing for many years).

The Republican Party at this time practically played only a most minor role in Arkansas politics.

However, his popularity and the break within Democratic camp, where many were outraged with Johnson's segregationist stances, and good year for the Republicans nationally helped Rockefeller to win.


Arkansas gubernatorial election, 1966[3]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Winthrop Rockefeller 306,324 54.36
Democratic James D. Johnson 257,203 45.64
Total votes 563,527 100.00