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 Company at East Liverpool, Ohio, and later joined the family business, The Summitville Face Brick Company at Summitville, Ohio, where his career would span 51 years.
Mr. Johnson’s early years at The Summitville Face Brick Company were interrupted by World War II. Enlisting as a combat infantryman with the United States Army’s 88th Division in Italy, Mr. Johnson was seriously 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 and, upon the retirement of his father, the late Fred H. Johnson, Sr., he assumed the company presidency. In 1947, with his brother Peter, he launched Summitville Tiles. By the time he 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.
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 1985, he was appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Stewart Ling to the National Beef Promotion and Research Board where he was elected its first treasurer and was subsequently named chairman of the board.
In 1978, Mr. Johnson helped found Certified Angus Beef and was chairman of that program for its first 6 years. Certified Angus Beef is the largest and most successful branded-beef program in the world, with current annual worldwide sales of well over 500 million pounds.
In 1989, 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 Seedstock Producer of the Year for 1989.
In 1990, Mr. Johnson was appointed by Governor Dick Celeste to serve on the Ohio Exposition Commission and was subsequently elected chairman of that commission during the term of Governor 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 Businesses of the Century. In 1999, Mr. Johnson was inducted into the prestigious Saddle & Sirloin Club’s Gallery Hall of Fame for his “outstanding and enduring contributions to the advancement of the livestock industry.” His canvas and oil portrait hangs in a gallery among two centuries of the American livestock industry’s most legendary leaders.
In 2007, the National Cattlemen’s Foundation presented Mr. Johnson with their National Beef Industry Vision Award in honor of his outstanding leadership and service to the beef industry.
Active his entire life in civic and community affairs, Mr. Johnson had served on the local school board, had been 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 was named the Fred H. Johnson Building.