Joan Johnson, a pioneer of entrepreneurship and owning a business that funded black hair companies, died at age 89 on Friday (Sept. 5), the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Johnson’s passing was due to a string of medical ailments that began in 2005 after an accident.
Cementing her business roots in Chicago, Ill., the businesswoman alongside her husband George Johnson established Johnson Products in 1954. According to the Sun-Times, the company was responsible for marketing staple hair-care brands like Ultra Sheen, and Afro Sheen. The company also sponsored the long-running Soul Train program, one of the first companies to do so. From $250 loan during its initial start to multi-million dollars after its prominence, Johnson Products became a certified company for providing a home for items geared toward the black community.
“I have lost a lifelong friend and partner and the love of my life,” George Johnson said in a statement to the news site. “Joan will be greatly missed by her family and all of those who have come to know her.” Rev. Jesse Jackson also issued a message on Johnson’s passing, referring to the entrepreneur as a “grand lady.” In 1971, Johnson Company made history as the first black-owned business to trade on the American Stock Exchange.
“She was a well-respected community servant of great character who always answered calls of justice,” Jackson said. “She always could be counted on to serve righteous causes.” On Friday (Sept. 13), a funeral will be held at Trinity United Church of Christ.