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Eunice Johnson, the widow of Ebony founder John Johnson and an icon in her own right, died Sunday of renal failure.

Ms. Johnson, in her 90s, was to be feted later this month at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for her work in making couture accessible to African-Americans nationwide through the Ebony Fashion Fair, which for decades showcased black designers and models.

“Her pivotal personality instilled pride in an alternative, distinctive beauty,” Harold Koda, curator of the Costume Institute at the Met, said in my Taking Names column about the tribute published this week in Crain’s Chicago Business.

It was through her husband, who died in 2005, and his pioneering work in publishing that “Mrs. J,” as she was affectionately called, gained national attention. She served as secretary-treasurer of Johnson Publishing, the company that is now headed by her daughter, Linda Johnson Rice. But her work in fashion — including designing the Fashion Fair cosmetics line — made her an international wonder.

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