John Harold Johnson (19 January 1918 – 8 August 2005) was an American businessman, publisher. He is the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company, and in 1982, the first African-American to appear on the Forbes 400.
Johnson was born to Leroy Johnson and Gertrude Jenkins in Arkansas City, Arkansas. Because there were no high schools there for African-Americans to attended, in the 1930s he moved to Chicago, Illinois with his family, where he attended DuSable High School and would become president of his class and editor-in-chief of the school paper. After attending University of Chicago on a scholarship, and later, Northwestern University.
Learn more about John H. Johnson at the Johnson Publishing Co. website.
Johnson began working at the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance, the first African-American owned insurance company, where he prepared a weekly digest of news and information. From there was his idea born for his first magazine, Negro Digest first published in 1942 with the founding of Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson used unconventional marketing techniques to help launch his first magazines. In order to pique store owner's interest and prompt them to order a shipment of the magazine, he would ask his friends to go to the stores and ask for Ebony Magazine to boost sales.
Johnson Publishing would later become an international media and cosmetics enterprise and the largest African American owned media publishing company with Ebony, Jet magazines. Fashion Fair Cosmetics and EBONY Fashion Fair are also included among its portfolio.
Johnson served on the board of directors of Dillard's Inc., and he has served on the boards of First Commercial Bank, Little Rock; Dial Corporation; Zenith Radio Corporation; and Chrysler Corporation.
Johnson was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans.
Johnson was married to Eunice Walker in 1941 with whom he had two children: Linda Johnson Rice who succeeded him as chairman, and son, John Harold Johnson, Jr. He died of heart failure in Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Howard University renamed their School of Communications after Johnson and awarded him an honoris causa Doctor of Humane Letters. In November 2005, a portion of Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue was renamed John H. Johnson Avenue.
Johnson was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1997.
In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed John H. Johnson on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.