ROSE HILL — Marvin Johnson, chairman of the Board Emeritus, former CEO and founder of House of Raeford Farms, passed peacefully in his sleep at home early Tuesday morning at the age of 89.
Johnson was a poultry industry pioneer who got his start on the streets of downtown Rose Hill, selling live turkeys grown in his own backyard. This venture led Marvin and his brother, Bizzell, to the local Sears where they purchased their first incubator and a few turkey eggs.
After serving overseas during World War II as a Merchant Marine, Johnson returned to Rose Hill to join his father and brother in building the town’s first feed mill in 1955. The feed mill led the Johnson family to expand their business, adding a chicken hatchery, and obtaining ownership interest in Rose Hill Poultry and Raeford Turkey Farms in Raeford, N.C.
In just a few short years, the family became the sole owners of Rose Hill Poultry, Raeford Turkey Farms became House of Raeford, and the two were joined together as House of Raeford Farms, Inc. under the leadership of the Johnson family. Johnson even paved the way for turkey to become a marketable product throughout the year rather than just during the holidays. House of Raeford was the first to process turkeys year-round, and invented the retail deli turkey breast and whole cooked turkey, among many other products.
Under his leadership, House of Raeford Farms grew from a modest family farm into a world-class, family-owned enterprise, rooted in deep family values. Today, the company is among the top 10 chicken producers in the country, and one of the largest family-owned businesses in North Carolina. House of Raeford currently has operations in Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina, employing more than 5,500.
Johnson served as president of the National Turkey Federation, N.C. Poultry Federation, and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, and was inducted into the N.C. Poultry Hall of Fame in 1996. He was named chairman of the Board Emeritus in 2010 as he moved away from day-to-day operations with his son, Bob, at the helm.
“Marvin Johnson had a tremendous impact on the industry and his community,” a House of Raeford statement read. “He will be remembered as a visionary entrepreneur, a community leader, and a dedicated family man whose wit and humor will never be forgotten.”
The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at Rose Hill United Methodist Church.
House of Raeford provided information for this article.