North Carolina poultry pioneer and House of Raeford patriarch Marvin Johnson passes away at age 89

Courtesy of House of Raeford Farms—Courtesy of House of Raeford Farms
Marvin Johnson

Edgar Marvin Johnson, the founder of House of Raeford Farms, passed away Wednesday at his home at the age of 89.

Johnson was chairman of the board emeritus and former chief executive officer of the Rose Hill poultry company, which he and his family founded after he returned from serving in World War II in the merchant marine.

“I was saddened to learn of the death of Marvin Johnson, the founder and former CEO of House of Raeford Farms,” Gov. Pat McCrory said. “He was truly a pioneer in the poultry industry, starting his business here in North Carolina and turning it into a national business leader. Ann and I are praying for the Johnson family during this time.“

On Johnson’s passing and what he meant to North Carolina agriculture, N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said, “Marvin Johnson epitomized what an entrepreneur is. From his humble beginnings selling turkeys from his backyard, to building a world-class poultry company, Marvin certainly helped build North Carolina’s poultry industry into the No. 1 agricultural sector in our state. We will miss his vision and his toughness.

“After Rose Hill Poultry and Raeford Turkey Farms became House of Raeford, Johnson helped the company become the first to transition turkey from a seasonal product and produce turkeys all year long, and in the process invented the retail deli turkey breast and whole cooked turkey products. The company now counts itself among the top 10 chicken producers in the country and remains one of the largest family owned businesses in North Carolina.

Johnson not only served his company, he served the poultry industry as well. He was president of the National Turkey Federation, the N.C. Poultry Federation and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, and he was inducted into the N.C. Poultry Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2010 he was named chairman of the board emeritus and transitioned from House of Raeford day-to-day operations, leaving his son, Bob, at the helm.

“Marvin Johnson was a pioneer leader in the N.C. poultry industry,” Robert L. Ford, the executive director of the North Carolina Poultry Federation, said. “A man of his word, who could make business deals with only a handshake. He did so much to help the poor and downtrodden that most folks never heard about.“

His family said he passed peacefully in his sleep early Wednesday morning.

“Marvin Johnson had a tremendous impact on the industry and his community,” a release from his company said. “He will be remembered as a visionary entrepreneur, a community leader, and a dedicated family man whose wit and humor will never be forgotten.“

Johnson’s funeral service was held at Rose Hill United Methodist Church on Friday, Aug. 19.