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was the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company, an international media and cosmetics empire headquartered in Chicago, Illinois that includes Ebony, and Jet magazines, Fashion Fair Cosmetics and EBONY Fashion Fair. Johnson was the first black person to appear on the Forbes 400 Rich List, and had a fortune estimated at close to $500 million.
Johnson was born in Arkansas City, Arkansas and in the 1930s moved to Chicago, Illinois with his family, where he attended Chicagos DuSable High School in 1936.
He briefly attended both University of Chicago and Northwestern University before beginning a magazine called The Negro Digest in 1942. The Negro Digest was the prototype for Ebony, which is still published and widely read today. Johnson used unconventional marketing techniques to help launch his first magazines. He would ask his friends to go to local stores and ask if they had Ebony Magazine in stock, in order to pique the storeowners interest and prompt the owner to order a shipment of the magazine. Johnsons publications soon became a widespread success.
Founded in 1942, Johnsons firm is the largest African American owned publishing company in the world. Johnson Publishing Company also publishes Black Star, Black World and Ebony Jr. magazines.
Johnson served on the Board of Directors of Dillards Inc., and he has served on the boards of First Commercial Bank, Little Rock; Dial Corporation; Zenith Radio Corporation; and Chrysler Corporation.
Howard University renamed their School of Communications after Johnson and awarded him an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Johnson was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans.
Johnson died of heart failure on August 8, 2005 at the age of 87 in Chicago at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He is survived by his widow, Eunice, and his daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, who now runs the Johnson Publishing empire. 
In November 2005, a portion of Chicagos famed Michigan Avenue was renamed John H. Johnson Avenue.
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