According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Johnson, the co-founder of Johnson Products Company and the makers of Afro Sheen and Ultra Sheen—passed last Friday (Sep. 6).
Her oldest son, Eric G. Johnson, told the newspaper that his trailblazing mother was ‘battling a combination of medical conditions stemming from a 2005 accident that sent her through five back surgeries.”
Her husband George added that he lost “the love of his life.”
“I have lost a lifelong friend and partner and the love of my life,” he said in a statement. “Joan will be greatly missed by her family and all of those who have come to know her.”
In 1954, Johnson and her husband George Johnson started their haircare line on the city’s South Side with a $250 investment and grew their business from $4 million in sales in 1967 to $40 million in 1976, the Sun-Times noted. Their company was one of the nation’s largest African-American owned in history.
In addition, Johnson gave back her community and amplified other African-American businesses and ventures including making sure that Johnson Hair Company was one of the first sponsors of the iconic dance show Soul Train and became an integral part of the marketing of the show in the 70s. Johnson also served as a trustee of Spelman College and provided an annual scholarship for a select set of the HBCU’s students each year.
For her son, his mother was a “pioneer.
“For having such a string of ‘firsts’ and being comfortable in that environment, I look at my mother as a pioneer,” Eric Johnson said. “She and my father had no provided path. They created a path where there was none.”
Adding, “Because of her, people have been able to accomplish things they maybe didn’t think they could, and they knew all the things they had to strive for.”
“As [the] matriarch of the family, she was a magnet who inspired, consoled and advised people. That’s the role she’s always played in this family from me as a child right down to her great-grandchildren.”
“She truly was a grande dame in every sense of the work,” said Linda Johnson Rice, CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, which formerly published Ebony and Jet magazines.
“Dignified, smart, sharp-witted and fun. I have many fond memories of my conversations with her…dispensing life advice. Her life is one to be celebrated.”
Joan Johnson is survived husband and three sons, a daughter Joan Johnson, 10 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. Funeral services are set in Chicago this Friday.
Rest in power Joan.