Harvey Johnson Jr. is a Mississippi-born politician. In 1968, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Tennessee State University after graduating from Rosa A. Temple High School in Vicksburg, Mississippi. In 1972, he received his master’s degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati. Johnson is Jackson, Mississippi’s first African American mayor. He was first elected in 1997 and served two terms before retiring in 2005. He ran again in 2009 and was re-elected, serving until 2013.
Johnson is best known for revitalizing and reinvesting in the downtown area of Jackson. When he was first elected in 1997, his administration worked to build a strong business class, particularly among African Americans, who made up the majority of the city’s population, as well as to create quality jobs, expand the tax base, and improve city services.
He specifically targeted improving basic city services such as trash collection, street maintenance, repairing crumbling infrastructure, improving efficiency and customer service in city agencies, establishing youth programs, and anti-crime initiatives through his “Building the Best of the New South” project. He also contributed to the revitalization of the Farish Street Neighborhood Historic District, where he constructed a convention center. He was a major supporter of Jackson’s Civil Rights Driving Tour, which was created to commemorate significant civil rights events in the city’s history.
Despite these initiatives, he received a lot of flak during his time as mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. His political opponents accused him of failing to address the city’s crime problem, ignoring street maintenance, and doing little to address the city’s exodus of middle and upper-class citizens. His administration was also accused of failing to cooperate with the Hinds County government, and he was chastised for inviting controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to speak in the city.
The Mississippi Institute of Small Towns was founded by Harvey Johnson Jr. He is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and a 1976 National Urban Fellows alumnus. In his bid for a fourth term as mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, he was defeated by Chokwe Lumumba in July 2013.