CHICAGO – Pioneering black publisher John H. Johnson (search) was remembered as a generous entrepreneur who provided what many say was American media's first positive window into black culture.
Hundreds of people filed past the Ebony (search) and Jet founder's casket on Sunday, six days after his death at age 87. Former President Clinton and other dignitaries were expected to speak at funeral services Monday.
"I never saw pictures of black people portrayed in a positive vein -- of young black people going to college or buying homes -- until I bought an Ebony magazine," said Zakiyyah Muhammad of Chicago, who remembers buying her first issue in 1959.
"It was the first publication to show how beautiful black people are. And in color? On the front page? Back then articles about blacks were usually way in the back," Muhammad said.
Others heralded Johnson's work as a philanthropist who served on the boards of numerous educational and cultural groups.
Born to a poor Arkansas family, Johnson started his publishing business with a $500 loan secured by his mother's furniture and built a publishing and cosmetics empire that made him one of the wealthiest and most influential black men in the United States.
Arthur Williams of Chicago said he first met Johnson as a boy in the 1950s when Johnson recruited him to hawk issues of Ebony on city "L" trains.
"He was a hustler, and he taught us kids how to hustle," Williams said. "He did a lot for blacks in Chicago as far as setting an example of how to be successful."
Johnson is survived by his wife, Eunice, and a daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, president of Johnson Publishing.