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African American publishing matriarch dies

January 5, 2010 |  8:37 am

Eunicejohnson_clinton Eunice W. Johnson, the woman who named Ebony Magazine, died of renal failure Sunday at her Chicago home. She was 93.

Born in Selma, Ala., Johnson was the daughter of a doctor and a teacher. She married John H. Johnson in 1941 and together they began their publishing company. Their first venture, "Negro Digest," launched in 1942. But it was Ebony, conceived as an African American version of Life, that became Johnson Publishing Co.'s flagship magazine once it hit shelves in 1945. Eunice Johnson is credited with giving Ebony its name.

Johnson Publishing, which is now led by the Johnsons' daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, remains the world's largest African American-owned and-operated publishing company. Other notable properties are Jet Magazine and Ebony Fashion Fair.

Starting in 1961, Eunice Johnson was the producer and director of Ebony Fashion Fair, which brought high fashion to African American communities; in recent years, it has made more than 180 stops worldwide.

After her husband died in 2005, she maintained her duties with the Ebony Fashion Fair and Johnson Publishing.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Eunice Johnson with former President Bill Clinton at her husband's 2005 funeral. Credit: Jeff Roberson / Associated Press