Former President of the Fresno Black Chamber of Commerce Dies

Jul 17, 2013 No Comments by

FRESNO – Former president of the Fresno Black Chamber of Commerce Reynold L. Johnson passed away last Sunday at the age of 76. Born in Hope, Arkansas on June 24, 1937 into a family of 10 children, he moved to Fresno and graduated from Edison High School. He started his first two businesses at 18 years of age – a dry cleaners and a rental house.

Upon completing high school, Johnson entered the United States Marine Corps and proudly served his country and was honorably discharged. He returned home to Fresno where he fell in love with his “forever” sweetheart, Arthelma Louise Woods. They were married and brought to that union was Johnson’s eldest son and three additional children were born.

In 1968, Johnson graduated from Fresno State with a B.S. in business administration. He later attended Pepperdine University’s MBA program, studying business and finance and graduated in 1980 from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and Finance.

Johnson joined Lloyds Bank of London and after a few years was named vice president and Manager of the Los Angeles Airport Office. While working at the bank he also became owner and president of Far West Investments, a Los Angeles real estate investment firm, employing 45 people. Investments included: small shopping center and office, clothing manufacturing company, car wash, ladies clothing store, and approximately 100 rental homes and apartments in Los Angeles and the surrounding area. He also owned an additional 44 units in Fresno.

After 25 years, Johnson retired and moved his family to Fresno and two years later joined the U.S. Small Business Administration as economic development specialist. He was assigned to service 15 counties in Central California, including Fresno, Bakersfield, Merced, Monterey and all cities in between. He retired after seven years with the SBA.

“Mr. Johnson was a kind and special man who believed in being accountable and expected no less from others around him,” said Ken Blackwood, founder and former president of the San Joaquin Valley Black Chamber of Commerce.  “As a businessman who served as board chair and advisor to The San Joaquin Valley Black Chamber of Commerce, he took a no-nonsense approach to the trust members placed in us. He showed superb instinct when faced with tough decisions. It was an honor to serve with him.”

Johnson was a dedicated activist for civil rights and economic advancement through personal efforts and through the following organizations:

  • Phi Beta Sigma, President
  • Brookings Business Institute, LA Chapter Charter Member
  • Compton Community College, Board Member
  • Madera County Veterans Resource Fair, Board Member
  • San Joaquin Valley Black Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Board
  • West Fresno Health Care Coalition, Board Member
  • San Joaquin Valley African American Chamber of Commerce, Founding Member
  • Family Community Church, Committee Member

Tate Hill, president of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, described Johnson as “a business community leader who excelled in his profession while reaching out to assist and support those around him. His investment into the Black Chamber as a founding director and chair has yielded the fruits we see today.”

Although retired, Johnson continued to volunteer free counseling services to young men and women involved in ongoing or start-up businesses within the 15 counties he previously serviced plus San Francisco and Los Angeles, not to mention the multitude of family and friends he passionately shared his financial and spiritual wisdom with for many years.

Blackwood described him as “a true friend and mentor, who will be greatly missed.”

Johnson is survived by his wife, four children and five grandchildren.

Visitation will be on Sunday, July 21, 2013, from 3 – 5 p.m. at Sterling & Smith Funeral Home, 1103 E Street, Fresno, Calif. 93706. A celebration of life will be held on Monday, July 22, 2013, at 11 a.m. at Family Community Church, 2434 E. Nees Ave., Fresno, Calif. 93720.


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