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Tribute to John H. Johnson

Location: Washington, DC

TRIBUTE TO JOHN H. JOHNSON -- (Senate - September 29, 2005)

Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, today, I pay tribute to the life and legacy of John H. Johnson. John was a pioneer whose monumental works in publishing and generous acts of philanthropy have had profound influence on the lives of millions, both inside and outside Arkansas.

John's life story is one we can all learn from and admire. Raising himself up from poverty to the top of the business world, he is proof that hard work and determination can create success. Born the grandson of slaves in a one-room house in Arkansas City in 1918, John went on to become the first African American to be named to Forbes' list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

The founder, publisher and chairman of Johnson Publishing company--the largest African-American owned publishing company in the world--John's magazines, Ebony and Jet, are the number one African-American magazine and newsweekly respectively. Ebony currently has a circulation of 1.7 million and a monthly readership of over 11 million, while Jet has a readership of over 8 million weekly, and both publications continue to lead the way in African-American journalism. Linda Johnson Rice, John's daughter, currently serves as President and CEO of her father's company and I wish her the best in building on her father's success.

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996--the highest honor this Nation bestows on civilians--John's life was full of accomplishments and accolades. John was recognized with the Magazine Publisher's Association publisher of the year award, the Black Journalists' Lifetime Achievement Award and the Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones Entrepreneurial Excellence Award. He has been inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame, the National Business Hall of Fame and, in 2001, he became the first African American inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame. During his life, John was also appointed to various posts by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon and served on the boards of corporations ranging from Dillard Department Stores to the Chrysler Corporation to Twentieth Century Fox Film.

But John's influence extends beyond the business world. He helped change race relations in this country, both with his publications and activism. In 1955, John made history when he published the unedited photographs of the mutilated body of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old murder victim who was viciously beaten, shot and then drowned in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The pictures, intended to show the reality of the Jim Crow South, helped spark the Civil Rights Movement.

As far as John went in life, he was not one to forget his roots. Raised in poverty in Arkansas by his mother, John has spent much of life giving back to his community and state. John's dedication to education and improving the lives of children has been one of his greatest passions and the results of his work will be felt in Arkansas for decades to come. In May, Arkansas City and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff dedicated the John H. Johnson Cultural and Educational Museum. The museum contains memorabilia, printed materials and videos about John's life, which will serve as an inspiration to our children as they strive to succeed. There are also plans in the works for the John H. Johnson Delta Cultural and Entrepreneurial Learning Center in Arkansas City, as well as a related academic complex in Pine Bluff. These facilities will undoubtedly be an asset to the university and provide valuable education opportunities for the students of Arkansas.

John H. Johnson's legacy will live on and continue to influence the State of Arkansas, and the Nation, for many years. Through his publications, activism and generosity, John has left an indelible mark on society. He was a trailblazer and his contributions to our Nation are immeasurable. I join all of Arkansas in saluting the memory of John H. Johnson.

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