In her honor

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 11, 2006

YMCA dedicates new facility to Eunice Walker Johnson

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

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Selma native Eunice Walker Johnson returned to her hometown Wednesday with joy in her heart.

Having donated $1 million to the YMCA of Selma-Dallas County, Johnson was praised by YMCA personnel, local dignitaries and old friends at the new Y facility off Medical Center Parkway, now known as the Walker-Johnson Family Center – the largest building in Selma named in honor of an African-American.

Johnson is secretary-treasurer of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., the world’s largest black owned publishing company and the producers of Ebony and Jet magazines. Eunice’s husband, the late John H. Johnson, founded the Chicago-based company in 1945. Johnson is also the founder of the Ebony Fashion Fair, which is deemed the largest traveling fashion show in the world.

Speaking to a full house in the Y’s gymnasium, Johnson said the Selma community “has taken a dream and turned it into a beautiful reality.”

“It is always a pleasure to come home, but this is very special to me,” she said. “Helping young people is what the YMCA is all about.”

Johnson added, “I will take great joy in thinking about the young people that will benefit from the programs offered here at the center.”

Inheriting a burning desire for education from her parents, Dr. Nathaniel

Walker and Mrs. Ethel McAlpine Walker, Johnson wanted pass down the same desire to local youth, advising them to “finish high school, become computer literate, go to college and pursue your dreams.”

Linda Johnson Rice, Eunice’s daughter and president and CEO of Johnson Publishing, accompanied her mother to Selma. Referring to the Y as a learning center for discipline and teamwork, Rice said she hopes the new facility brings people together throughout Selma and surrounding communities.

In celebration of Johnson’s visit, Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. presented Johnson with a key to the city.

“I hereby salute you for your display of charity and love,” Perkins said. “We just want to say we love you and we appreciate your love and charity to our community.”

YMCA CEO Angie Miller and COO John Solomon also presented plaques to Johnson and Rice for their family’s kind offer.

“This is what generosity looks like,” said YMCA board member Juanda Maxwell. “This day was prayed for and dreamed about by many, many people.” Then Maxwell turned to Johnson and said, “Thank you. Words can never express that.”