Eunice W. Johnson

Eunice W. Johnson
1975 photograph of Johnson in her office at Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago.
Born Eunice Walker
(1916-04-04)April 4, 1916
Selma, Alabama, U.S.
Died January 3, 2010(2010-01-03) (aged 93)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Cause of death Renal Failure
Resting place Oak Woods Cemetery
(Chicago, Illinois)
Education Talladega College
Loyola University Chicago
Notable credit(s) The Negro Digest
Ebony Magazine
Jet Magazine
Ebony Fashion Fair
Title Johnson Publishing Company
Ebony Fashion Fair
(Founder & Director)
John H. Johnson
(m. 1941; d. 2005)
Children Linda Johnson–Rice

Eunice Walker Johnson (April 4, 1916 – January 3, 2010) was the wife of publisher John H. Johnson and an executive at Johnson Publishing Company.[1] Johnson was best known as the founder and director of the Ebony Fashion Fair, which was started in the 1950s as a hospital fundraiser and became an annual fashion tour that highlighted fashion for African-American women that ran until a year before her death.[2]

Early life

Born Eunice Walker on April 4, 1916, in Selma, Alabama. She graduated with a degree in sociology from Talladega College in 1938. During her matriculation at college Eunice joined Delta Sigma Theta.[3] She met her future husband, John H. Johnson, in 1940 while she was attending Loyola University Chicago and was married after she earned her master's degree the following year.[4]

Johnson Publishing Company

Together with her husband, she established The Negro Digest in 1942, a magazine styled after Reader's Digest. The rapid growth of their first publication encouraged them to create Ebony, a monthly designed to emulate Life and its style of boldly-photographed front covers. Johnson had been the one who suggested that the magazine be named for the dark wood.[4] By the time of her death, Ebony reached a readership of 1.25 million, while its weekly companion Jet reached a circulation of 900,000.[4]

Ebony Fashion Fair & Cosmetics

The Ebony Fashion Tour began as a fundraiser that she created in 1958 for a hospital in New Orleans. In its half century of existence, the tour visited 200 cities across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, raising over $50 million for charity. The fashion tour was a pioneer in using African-American models on the runway and helped highlight the works of African-American designers. Building on her difficulties in finding cosmetics suited to the skin tones of her models, Johnson created Fashion Fair Cosmetics in 1973 as a line of makeup that would be sold in leading department stores.[4]

Death and legacy

Johnson died of renal failure January 3, 2010, at the age of 93 at her home in Chicago. She is survived by her daughter Linda Johnson Rice, chairwoman and chief executive of Johnson Publishing, as well as by a granddaughter.[4] In 2010, the Noble Network of Charter Schools and Chicago Public Schools opened Johnson College Prep High School, a public charter high school in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood in honor of Johnson and her husband John H. Johnson.[5] She was buried with her husband in a private family mausoleium at Oak Woods Cemetery, in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago's South Side.[6]


  1. Jensen, Trevor. "Eunice W. Johnson dies at 93; gave Ebony magazine its name", Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2010. Accessed January 9, 2010.
  2. Faulkner, Leesha. "Eunice Walker Johnson remembered", Selma Times-Journal, January 6, 2010. Accessed January 9, 2010.
  3. "Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Mourns Beloved Member and Fashion Pioneer, Eunice W. Johnson", Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, January 8, 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Hevesi, Dennis. "Eunice Johnson Dies at 93; Gave Ebony Its Name", The New York Times, January 9, 2010. Accessed January 9, 2010.
  5. History & Campus Partnerships.
  6. Eunice Walker Johnson at Find a Grave
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