Virginia Lillian Morris Johnson 79, died Wednesday, June 27 at her home in Conway. She was born on January 21, 1928 in Conway, the daughter of Jesse Lyman Morris and Marion Morgan Morris. Her family later moved to El Paso, Arkansas. Following the untimely death of her mother when she was 14, she moved to Bee Branch, and was raised by her motherís sister and her husband, Mildred (Boots) and Thomas Quinn French, and graduated as valedictorian of her class at Southside High School in Bee Branch and won a scholarship to Draughonís School of Business in Little Rock.
While living in Little Rock she met a recent law school graduate, James Douglas (Jim) Johnson of Crossett. They married on December 21, 1947. She served as his legal secretary for his entire career.
Following Jimís election to the Arkansas Senate from Ashley and Chicot Counties, she served on the staff of the Senate during the 1951 and 1953 legislative sessions. A skilled campaigner, she assisted her husband in his unsuccessful race for Governor in 1956, and his successful race for the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1958. In 1966, she spoke at political rallies all across the state for her husbandís candidacy for Governor, when he defeated a field of seven to win the Democratic nomination. In 1968, she became the first woman ever to run for Governor of Arkansas, winning a spot in the Democratic runoff, in a six candidate field.
She was preceded in death by her parents and three brothers.
She is survived by her husband of 59 years, three sons, Mark Johnson (Catherine) of Little Rock, Dave Johnson (Shannon) of Fayetteville, and Danny Johnson (Betty) of Conway. Two sisters, Rose Morris Mahan of Damascus and Mary Jane Morris McMenemy of Gilbert, Arizona. Two brothers, Frank Morris of Conway and John Morris of Costa Rica. Six grandchildren, Allison Johnson, Andrea Johnson, Patrick Johnson, Shelby Johnson, Adam Johnson, and Mary Beth Johnson.
Funeral services 1:00 pm Saturday, June 30, at Roller McNutt Funeral Home in Conway, with interment to follow at Oak Grove Cemetery also in Conway. Visitation will be held from 6:00 to 8:00 pm on Friday June 29, at the funeral home.
Pallbearers are Geoff Lackey, Marty Montgomery, Stanley Russ, Chris Throneberry, John VanWinkle, and Kenneth Wilcox.
In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials be made to Serenity Park or Gaines House both in Little Rock.