Eunice Johnson Passes Away

Mrs. Eunice Johnson, producer and director of the Ebony Fashion Fair and secretary-treasurer of Johnson Publishing Company, died of renal failure at her home in Chicago. She was 93. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will honor her work on January 11 as a philanthropist and fashion icon. The tribute, planned some time ago, was several months in the making.

“Mrs. Johnson elevated the image of Black women being fashion conscious, fashion forward and affluent,” said Kenneth Owen, assistant producer of Ebony Fashion Fair, who was handpicked by the fashion pioneer 26 years ago to work alongside her.

Born on April 4, 1916 in Selma, Ala., Mrs. Johnson came from a prestigious family. Her sophistication and fashion sense wasn’t bought. She was born with it. Mrs. Johnson’s father, Dr. Nathaniel D. Walker, was a doctor who practiced medicine for five decades, while her mother, Ethel McAlpine Walker, taught education and art at Selma University. The institution was founded by Dr. William H. McAlpine, her maternal grandfather, who also founded the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. and was close friends with Booker T. Washington.

Education was important in the Johnson household. She graduated from Talladega College with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in art. A master’s degree was later earned in social work from Loyola University in Chicago.

Mrs. Johnson was working as a social worker when she quit her job to support her husband John’s vision of starting a magazine that focused on Black life. When he was having trouble trying to find a name for a new magazine in 1945, he asked her for guidance since she had a degree in art. She chose Ebony because it means “fine black African wood.” The magazine would go on to define generations.

Click here to read more about the LIFE of Eunice Johnson.


  1. RIP

    (that portrait is killing me softly though…on the inside)

  2. What a tremendous woman! I also read her grandfather was a co-founder of Selma University. The Johnsons have made a tremendous contribution. Ebony Fashion Fair was the single most exciting event as a teen and influenced my love for fashion. I worked in a fabric store in college and Mrs. Johnson would come in. She was so down to earth and I was impressed that she would come in for little detailing items, a piece of fabric for scarf or attachments for the fashion show herself. It demonstrated her love and passion for what she did and her eye for detail. Always so pleasant and thankful for your assistance! I took a couple of classes and my instructor was a seasoned writer and editor with Ebony and the wonderful stories she would share was priceless. Back then there were only a few places black entertainment journalists could be employed, unlike today with the Internet and even free newspapers many of us publish.

    Most people grew up with Ebony and Jet magazines in their homes. Today many school teachers say that our kids struggle to read because their isn’t magazines in the home. Ebony and Jet kept us informed on our celebrities, politicians and vital statistics and data, way before Access Hollywood or the Internet.

    Before Vibe, Upscale, Black Enterprise and Black Hair Sophisticates, etc., Ebony and Jet was our primary media source. At John H. Johnson’s funeral, the legendary actress Dianne Carroll told the press that his funeral should have been flooded with black hollywood because of all the careers he personally helped to launch. Their Daughter, Linda Rice has done a great job in holding down the fort and these crucial economic times have impacted this dynasty which is on the market. But, they gave us over 60 years to help us to learn to love ourselves, from the galvanizing 1950s to helping our 1st Black President to become a reality, Ebony and Jet has been there, impacting untold millions of lives!

    Mrs. Eunice Johnson


  3. I am just hearing of this news… thanks for reporting it. I have been to many other AA sites and no mention of it….. RIP

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