ROSE HILL, NC – The founder and former CEO of House of Raeford Farms, Marvin Johnson, died at the age of 89, according to an Aug. 17 statement from the company. Known as a pioneer in the poultry industry, Johnson — along with his brother, Bizzell — began in the business by selling turkeys raised in their backyard and sold the live birds in downtown Rose Hill. They later would start incubating turkey eggs to grow their business.
After serving as a Merchant Marine during World War II, Johnson came back to his home town where he, his father and brother built the first feed mill, developed a chicken hatchery and ultimately became owners of Rose Hill Poultry and Raeford Turkey Farms, which would become House of Raeford Farms Inc.
Marvin Johnson was credited as being among the first in the industry to not only market turkey throughout the year but also developing turkey breast meat for retail sales and inventing other products, including whole, cooked turkeys. The company would go on to become a leading poultry firm and one of the most successful family owned businesses in its segment. According to MEAT+POULTRY’s 2016 ranking of the Top 100 meat and poultry processors, House of Raeford’s annual sales topped $1.33 billion while employing 5,500 workers and operating eight plants in four states.
During his illustrious career, Johnson was inducted into the North Carolina Poultry Hall of Fame in 1996 and also served as president of several poultry trade associations. He was appointed the emeritus chairman of the board of the company in 2010, having passed the leadership to his son, Bob.
“Marvin Johnson had a tremendous impact on the industry and his community,” the company said in the statement. “He will be remembered as a visionary entrepreneur, a community leader, and a dedicated family man whose wit and humor will never be forgotten.”