Eunice W. Johnson, wife of the late John H. Johnson and co-founder of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., died Jan. 3, 2010 at her home in Chicago. She was 93. A trailblazer in fashion, philanthropy and the arts, Mrs. Johnson served as producer and director of Ebony Fashion Fair since 1961 and also held the office of secretary-treasurer at Johnson Publishing, home to Ebony and Jet magazines as well as Fashion Fair Cosmetics.
Mrs. Johnson has always been a woman ahead of her time. Under her direction, Mrs. Johnson made a tremendous impact on the fashion industry, showcasing the best in style on African American models of various shapes, sizes and skin tones. It was her sheer determination and astute business sense that helped pave the way for supermodels Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Iman and Beverly Johnson.
Ebony Fashion Fair, the world’s largest traveling fashion show, which annually encompasses a nearly 180-city tour of the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, has raised more than $55 million for various African American charities.
Mrs. Johnson was also involved in the creation of Fashion Fair Cosmetics. Both she and Mr. Johnson wanted to fi ll the void for the Ebony Fashion Fair models that struggled to fi nd cosmetics in shades that matched their diverse skin tones. Fashion Fair was born in 1973 as an answer to this problem, and today is the world beauty brand leader for women of color.
Due to her love for the arts, she was equally instrumental in selecting art from Black, African and Caribbean artists in addition to pre-civil war and other historical items for the corporate headquarters in Chicago. This building, for which Mrs. Johnson found the lot, remains the only Black-owned offi ce building in downtown Chicago. Mrs. Johnson also secured a special decorator with whom she worked very closely in the interior design of the building.
For her commitment to community service, Mrs. Johnson has been the recipient of several awards including honors from the United Negro College Fund, The Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, Alabama A&M, Loyola University and a host of others.
Born in Selma, Ala., Mrs. Johnson received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology, with a minor in Art, from Talladega College in Alabama. She earned her master’s degree in Social Work from Loyola University in Chicago. In addition, she received honorary doctorate degrees from Talladega College in 1988 and Shaw University in 1990.
Mrs. Johnson will be sincerely missed, and her life and work will continue to be defi ned by her contributions to the world of fashion and philanthropy for years to come.
She is survived by her daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, chairman and CEO of Johnson Publishing, and granddaughter, Alexa Rice.
Private funeral services will be held.