Dr. John M. Peterson, an expert in economic development, served as Arkansas' 11th administrator of the Arkansas Employment Security Division. He was the third to be appointed by Governor Winthrop Paul Rockefeller. He replaced Jerry Thomasson when he resigned to run for Attorney General for the state.
The Fort Worth, Texas native, like other Rockefeller appointees to that position, enjoyed only a short-lived tenure as ESD administrator. He served from May 7, 1968 until September 27, 1969. Before coming to the ESD, Dr. Peterson headed Governor Rockefeller's Economic Development Program, and before that, the University of Little Rock's Industrial Research and Extension Center. He had also previously worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He was a professor of Economics at the University of Arkansas before joining the Rockefeller Administration. Director Peterson served during the tenure of Thomas Stover, Director of the Department of Labor.
Governor Winthrop Rockefeller led the state during the height of the civil rights era, and is considered to have done a commendable job of ushering Arkansas through that time. He might best be remembered for joining with the mostly-black congregation of grievers who stood on the steps of the state capital after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and sang "We Shall Overcome." Political historians agree that Rockefeller paved the way for the moderate governors who followed.