184 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI industries begun under this plan, which continues to thrive in the second half of the twentieth century. White’s term as governor, while often defined by BAWI, also saw the origins of a modern highway system and the implementation of the homestead exemption law. Modern highway miles increased from 922 in 1936 to 4,000 in 1940. Despite Governor White’s best efforts, Mississippi remained the poorest state in the nation mired in a longstanding depression. The event that would shake the nation to its core and prompt both the end of the Great Depression and an economic revival in the region was the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In 1939, Paul B. Johnson, Sr., ran in his third consecutive gubernatorial campaign, having lost the prior two to rivals from the Piney Woods. His opponent was Mike Conner, former governor and prior adversary in the Democratic primary election of 1931. Unlike Conner and White, Johnson grew up in an impoverished farm family and sought to bring New Deal–type social welfare programs to Mississippi. He was a former U.S. congressman and a friend of Franklin Roosevelt’s. At the head of his agenda were improvements in education, including free textbooks for schoolchildren. The free textbook law passed the Mississippi legislature in 1940, ensuring all public-school children in grades 1–8 received free textbooks. In 1942 a second law provided free textbooks to all high school students. Realizing that the entry of the United States into World War II was looming on the horizon, Johnson spent much of his time readying the state for the impending conflict. He died in office in 1943, one year shy of completing his term in office. World War II and Civil Rights World War II represents a watershed event in Mississippi history. Much like the Civil War, the conflict influenced the lives of virtually every Mississippian. From the 230,000 Mississippians who served in the armed forces to the thousands of carpenters who built training facilities across the state, the people of Mississippi worked toward a common goal: the defeat of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The war effort also changed the economy of Mississippi, providing jobs for both men and women. At the same time, a move toward mechanization in agriculture saw sharecroppers and some farm owners leave their farms for wage labor opportunities in Mississippi cities such as Biloxi, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, and Pascagoula. Others left the state for wage labor opportunities. Between 1940 and 1950, Mississippi suffered a net loss in population, mainly due to African Americans leaving the state to move north as part of the Second Great Migration. Typically, white farmers left the farm for wage labor jobs in Mississippi towns, while African Americans, frustrated with WARREN PAVING Warren Paving has been in operation for nearly half a century. Warren annually produces more than 500,000 tons of asphalt for heavy highway building, construction, and high-tech site work, along with various specialized projects. Quality service is a core principle held by its employees, including management, quality control technicians, equipment operators, engineers, and laborers. Heavily involved in local communities, Warren has increased jobs at both the Hattiesburg and the Gulfport locations, helping to create their strong economic development. PHOTO COURTESY OF WARREN PAVING, INC.