SUMMITVILLE, Ohio – The U.S. cattle industry lost one of its most influential leaders last week.
Fred H. Johnson Jr., 91, died Sept. 6, 2007, at his home in Summitville, Ohio, from complications of cancer.
Born March 26, 1916, in Clearfield, Pa., Mr. Johnson was the son of Frederick and Ethel Johnson. He moved to Summitville with his parents in 1921 and lived there for most of life.
Mr. Johnson attended elementary school in Summitville in a building he helped to construct and went on to graduate from East Liverpool High School. Following high school graduation, he enrolled at Penn State University where he majored in engineering.
Following his studies at Penn State, Mr. Johnson joined the family business, The Johnson China Co. in East Liverpool. He later joined another family business, the Summitville Face Brick Co., in Summitville, where his career would span 51 years.
World War II. Mr. Johnson’s early years at the Summitville Face Brick Co. were interrupted by World War II. Enlisting as a combat infantryman with the U.S. Army’s 88th Division in Italy, Mr. Johnson was wounded and confined to a military hospital for 11 months.
He was later awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his service to the country.
Following World War II, Mr. Johnson returned to Summitville. Upon the retirement of his father, the late Fred H. Johnson Sr., he assumed the company presidency.
In 1947, he launched Summitville Tiles with his brother, Peter. By the time Mr. Johnson retired in 1982, the company had three manufacturing operations and a chain of distribution centers that spanned the nation.
After retiring, Mr. Johnson dedicated his full energies to the family cattle operations, Summitcrest Farms, which he established in 1949. With cattle breeding operations in Ohio, Iowa and Nebraska, and a genetics company in Montana, Summitcrest’s champion breeding cattle have developed into a brand recognized around the world.
Industry leader. Mr. Johnson was a past director of the American Angus Association, a past president of the Ohio Angus Association and a past chairman of the Ohio Beef Council.
In 1978, Mr. Johnson helped found Certified Angus Beef and served as chairman of that program for its first six years. Certified Angus Beef is the largest branded-beef program in the world, with current annual worldwide sales of well over 500 million pounds.
During his time with Certified Angus Beef, Mr. Johnson worked closely with now-retired Executive Director Louis M. “Mick” Colvin.
“He was devoted to the Angus breeder,” Colvin said.
If there was an issue to be solved, Mr. Johnson was the first to jump on board.
“You name it, Fred would do it.” Colvin said. “It didn’t matter what we were doing or what problem we had.”
While they worked together, Colvin also witnessed Mr. Johnson’s dedication and work ethic.
“Fred was a true warrior,” he said.
In 1985, Johnson was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Richard Lyng to the National Beef Promotion and Research Board, where he was elected its first treasurer and was subsequently named the chairman of the board.
Honored. Two years after founding Certified Angus Beef, Mr. Johnson was inducted into the American Angus Heritage Foundation Hall of Fame and the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame.
The 29th All-American Futurity was dedicated to Mr. Johnson.
And in 1990, Angus News named him the Man of the Decade. The Beef Improvement Federation named him the Seedstock Producer of the Year in 1989.
In 1990, Gov. Dick Celeste appointed Mr. Johnson to serve on the Ohio Exposition Commission. Mr. Johnson was elected chairman of the commission during the term of Gov. George Voinovich.
Upon his retirement from Summitcrest in 1995, Mr. Johnson established the Loup River Ranch and built his second home near Milburn, Neb.
In 1998, the Johnson family was selected as one of eight Cattle Business of the Century. In 1999, Mr. Johnson was inducted into the prestigious Saddle and Sirloin Club’s Gallery Hall of Fame for his “outstanding and enduring contributions to the advancement of the livestock industry.”
In 2007, the National Cattlemen’s Foundation presented Mr. Johnson with its National Beef Industry Vision Award in honor of his outstanding leadership and service to the beef industry.
Involvement. Active his entire life in civic and community affairs, Mr. Johnson had served on the local school board, served as chief of the local volunteer fire department and had been a member and elder of the Bethesda Presbyterian Church near Summitville.
He was awarded the Lone Eagle Scout badge by Dan Baird, founder of the Boy Scouts of America, and later served as troop master.
An accomplished land and sea pilot, Mr. Johnson was instrument rated for single- and multi-engine airplanes. He flew a number of planes in his day, including a World War II vintage P-51 Mustang he had converted for civilian use.
For more than 35 years, Mr. Johnson served on the board of the Citizen Bank and its successor, Sky Bank, where he retired as chairman of the board.
Upon his retirement as chairman, the bank’s new headquarters in Salineville, Ohio, was named the Fred H. Johnson Building.
Family. Surviving Mr. Johnson is his wife of 47 years, Betty Johnson. He is also survived by their four children: Fred H. “Sam” Johnson III of Salem, Ohio; Jeff Johnson of Broken Bow, Neb.; Vicki Prusia of Apollo, Pa.; and Cindy Johnson of Summitville.
Three more daughters also survive Mr. Johnson: Penny McCullough of Brunswick Hills, Ohio; Judy Robertson of Beaufort, S.C.; and Patty Hall of Atlanta, Ga.
Mr. Johnson has 15 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.
He is also survived by his brother, Peter, of Salem.
He was preceded in death by his sister, Ethel Drehman Daum.
Calling hours were held at Stark Memorial in Salem Sept. 9.
Services were held at the First Presbyterian Church in Salem Sept. 10 with pastor Tom Allmon officiating. Private burial services followed at Bethesda Presbyterian Cemetery near Summitville.
A reception was held at the Spread Eagle Tavern in Hanoverton following the burial.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent in Mr. Johnson’s name to the National Cattlemen’s Foundation Scholarship Fund, 9110 E. Nichols Ave., Centennial, CO 80112.
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