Johnston, Erle


Johnston started out working simultaneously as a correspondent for the Jackson Daily News, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal. In 1937, he secured a full-time job with the Clarion-Ledger. One of only eight staff members, Johnston served the newspaper first as state news editor, then as political reporter and oil and gas editor before becoming the first staff photographer for a daily Mississippi newspaper. In 1941, Johnston became part owner of the weekly Scott County Times of Forest, Mississippi. Johnston's tenure with the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission began in 1960, when he was appointed Director of Public Relations by Governor Barnett. The Sovereignty Commission, designed as the state's "segregation watch-dog agency," was created in 1956 in an effort to combat the threat of integration. The Sovereignty Commission came under attack by many civil rights activists, and it was Johnston's assignment to develop a publicity program that would counter such attacks and defend the commission. In 1963, Johnston became Executive Director of the Sovereignty Commission, a position he held until his resignation in 1968. Johnston's next political endeavor was as Mayor of Forest from 1981 to 1985. During his term, Johnston focused on the advancement and development of the city's industry. Companies such as Hughes Aircraft and Sara Lee Bakeries found homes in Forest, which brought thousands of jobs to the area.

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