Eunice W. Johnson, who along with her late husband, John H. Johnson, cofounded Johnson Publishing Company Inc. in 1942 and held the office of secretary-treasurer for the company, died of kidney failure on Sunday at her home in Chicago. She was 93.
This story first appeared in the January 6, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The company owns Ebony and Jet magazines, as well as Fashion Fair Cosmetics.
She had also served as producer and director of Ebony Fashion Fair, said to be one of the world’s largest traveling fashion shows, since its inception in 1961. The show, which annually travels to about 180 cities in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, has raised more than $55 million for various African-American charities to date, according to a company spokesman.
Johnson’s 1973 creation of Fashion Fair was born out of a desire to provide African-American women with cosmetics which matched their diverse skin tones, something in rare supply in the early Seventies and before.
Johnson, who was born in Selma, Ala., received her bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in art from Alabama’s Talladega College, later earning a master’s degree in social work from Loyola University of Chicago. She also received honorary doctorates from Talladega College in 1988 and Shaw University in 1990.
Johnson’s love of art led to her to amass a large collection of pieces by African-American, African and Caribbean artists. Many of these pieces are displayed in the company’s headquarters in downtown Chicago.
Johnson is survived by her daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, who is chairman and chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing, and by her granddaughter, Alexa Rice.
Private funeral services will be held.