Eunice Johnson, Co-founder of Ebony Magazine

Sixty-five years after the inception of the world’s largest black-owned publishing empire, Eunice Johnson, co-founder of Johnson Publishing Co., died Jan. 3 at the age of 93.

Johnson, an astute businesswoman and fashion maven, started Johnson Publishing Co. (No. 15 on the be industrial/service companies list with $328 million in revenues) with her husband, John H. Johnson, in 1942 using a $ 500 loan. Since that time, the company’s products–Ebony and JET magazines and Fashion Fair Cosmetics–have become household names.

But the Ebony Fashion Fair, the world’s largest traveling fashion show featuring black models and designers, was Johnson’s claim to fame. Johnson served as its producer and director from 1961 until 2009. The show appeared in more than 200 cities across the U.S., the U.K., and the Caribbean.

“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,” reads a statement on
Born in Selma, Alabama, Johnson received her bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in art from Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. She also earned a master’s degree in social work from Loyola University in Chicago. She is survived by her daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, the current chairman and CEO of Johnson Publishing Co.

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.