January 19, 1918
John Johnson was born into abject poverty in Arkansas City (Desha County). He graduated from high school in Chicago, Illinois, where his mother had taken him at age nine following the accidental death of his father. Johnson became editor of the monthly newsletter of the insurance company where he worked while attending the University of Chicago; in 1942, with a $500 loan secured by his mother’s furniture, he published the first issue of Negro Digest, which was an instant success. He established the Johnson Publishing Company and, in 1945, began publication of Ebony. He began publishing Jet in 1951. He was named among the Forbes 400 richest Americans, and President Bill Clinton gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.