On August 8, 2005, John H. Johnson, one of the greatest publishers in history, died of heart failure. He will be best known as the founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, but his influence also made him a catalyst for social change—changing the way millions of people viewed black leaders, black culture, music and fashion.
Born into poverty, Mr. Johnson founded his media, fashion and cosmetics empire in 1942 with a $500 loan secured by his mother's furniture. His revolutionary business became the world's largest black-owned publishing company, and Mr. Johnson was the first African-American to make the Forbes list of wealthiest people.
"Mr. Johnson had big dreams for himself, but more importantly, he had big dreams for the community," Illinois Senator Barack Obama says.
In 1996, President Clinton awarded Mr. Johnson the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Then, at his funeral in August 2005, President Clinton said, "One man stood out because his dream was bigger, and he had a vision of how to achieve it."
"We lost a great visionary whose groundbreaking work paved the way for so many people—myself included," Oprah says. "He showed us who we could be. Thank you, Mr. Johnson."