Alabama native producing 49th annual Ebony show
By Barry Sublett
Credit an Alabama native with the success of Ebony Fashion Fair.
Forty-nine years have passed since Eunice Walker Johnson produced the first show. Since then, $54 million in proceeds have benefited United Negro College Fund, Urban League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others.
In 1956, at the request of the wife of Dillard University President Emeritus Albert W. Dent, Johnson put together a show to benefit the Women’s Auxiliary of Flint-Goodrich Hospital in New Orleans. Its success resulted in a 10-city national show two years later.
Johnson is the widow of John H. Johnson, who founded Johnson Publishing Co. in Chicago in 1942. She named its flagship magazine Ebony in 1945. She is a Selma native who graduated from Talladega College before moving Chicago to pursue a master’s degree in social work from Loyola University. In 2004, Talladega College named its Division of Social Sciences and Education in her honor because of longtime financial support.
Since the inception of the fashion show, she has traveled abroad to purchase designs from the world’s best-known fashion houses.
Her shows helped launch careers of actor Richard Roundtree of “Shaft” fame and Janet Langhart Cohen, wife of former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, one of the first black women to break into television. Both were Ebony models.
Johnson also was instrumental in the development of Fashion Fair Cosmetics, a world leader in cosmetics for black women.
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