Johnston, Eric A. (Eric Allen), 1895-1963

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Motion picture executive.

From the description of Reminiscences of Eric A. Johnston : oral history, 1959. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122481310

Material for biographical note taken from "The Eric A. Johnston Story" by Ralph P. Edgerton, 1979. (Copy located in The Westerners, Spokane Corral Records [Ms 141].)

Eric Johnston has been described as ambitious, aggressive, and industrious. With a plethora of natural talents and seemingly limitless aspirations, he has served in many capacities as a dedicated leader to the business world, politics, and the media industry.

Eric A. Johnston was born December 21, 1895 in Washington D.C. to a pharmacist, Bertram Allen Johnson, and his wife Ida Ballinger Johnson. The following year, the family moved to Marysville, Montana having lost their business in the wake of the 1893 Panic. Some time after the turn of the century, the family’s acquaintance with a Mr. Murgittroyd persuaded them to leave the rough Montana mining town and move to Spokane, Washington. By 1906 the Johnsons had settled in the Inland Empire and opened Johnson’s Drug Store at 130 Post Street.

At a mere ten years of age, Eric was introduced to the working world. In his later years, he described himself as growing up in “genteel penury,” and as a result, had to contribute to the family income by, at various times, selling the Saturday Evening Post, carrying a paper route, and writing school updates for the Spokesman-Review . From this time foward, he worked all his life.

In 1911 Eric’s mother filed for divorce, and subsequently, his father seems to have contributed little, if any, to the development or financial maintenance of his son. During this decade, Eric, followed by his mother, adopted the new last name Johnston.

In 1913, after graduating from the newly built Lewis and Clark High School, Johnston enrolled at the University of Washington. Supporting himself by a myriad of jobs, Eric was on track to complete his degree, but just a year before he would have graduated, he applied for officership and was appointed 2nd Lieutenant for the Marines. His time in the service took him to such places as Mare Island, Quantico, China, and even Siberia.

Returning to the U.S., Johnston settled back in Spokane. Shortly thereafter he met Ina Hughes and married her in 1922. The same year saw the incorporation of Power Brown Company, a business dedicated to selling household electrical fixtures and under which both Eric and his mother had been employed. Under its incorporation, Eric and his mother served as vice president and secretary/treasurer respectively. Two years later, Power Brown bought Doerr-Mitchell Electric Company, the largest and oldest manufacturer of electrical equipment and changed the name of their corporation to Brown-Johnston Co. Under this name they continued to grow until, eventually, the wholesale and the retail businesses were split and a new company, Columbia Electric and Manufacturing, was created in 1940.

By this time, Johnston’s business savvy was becoming apparent. As a result, he was named trustee of the fledgling Washington Brick & Lime & Sewer Pipe Company, and due to his business acumen, the company saw a complete financial turn-around. This same year Johnston became president of Spokane’s Chamber of Commerce where he served for two years. This position paved the way as he rose to national attention becoming a candidate for the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. at the age of 37. For several years he represented the Chambers of the Northwestern states and in 1941 was elected by the Board of the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. to be its president. In this capacity he served four consecutive terms; he was the first to do so.

His move from national recognition to the international limelight came about when he served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s emissary to South America as chairman of the U.S. Commission of Inter-American Development and in 1944 as emissary to Russia, an invitation extended by Stalin himself.

With such a resume, Eric Johnston was naturally a desired asset in American corporations. In fact, he received a number of invitations to serve as director of various organizations. Additionally, his name was dropped as a possible candidate for Washington state governor, vice president, and several times as a presidential hopeful. But when Will H. Hays retired and offered Johnston his position as president of the Motion Picture Association of America, Johnston accepted noting that it provided the best means of voicing American principles to the world. Perhaps his greatest realization of this goal was opening foreign markets to American films. During this endeavor, Johnston was granted ambassadorial status as his marketing negotiations led him to deal with many high ranking government figures.

Called “America’s eloquent salesman,” Johnston attained national and international recognition. By the time of his death in 1963, Johnston had successfully worn the hat of noted orator, flourishing businessman, skilled diplomat, and copious writer. In 1943 he was recognized by Whitman College with the granting of an honorary degree of Doctorate of Civil Laws and over the years additional acknowledgment followed from Boston University, Rhode Island State College, University of Washington, Lafayette College, Tufts College, University of Southern California, and the State College of Washington (now Washington State University).

From the guide to the Eric A. Johnston Papers, 1920-1963, 1940-1963, (Eastern Washington State Historical Society/Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture Joel E. Ferris Research Library and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Johnston, Eric. Papers, 1920-1963, bulk 1940-1963. Eastern Washington State Historical Society
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [APR. 10]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS. [AUG. 2]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS. [NOV. 27]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MAY 21]
referencedIn Edgerton, Ralph P, Judge. Papers, 1927-1983. Eastern Washington State Historical Society
referencedIn George S. Messersmith papers, 1907-1955 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [APR. 5]
referencedIn George S. Messersmith papers, 1907-1955 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [JULY 7]
creatorOf Johnston, Eric Allen, 1896-1963. Letter, 1963 May 16 : Washington, D.C., to William D. Morgenstern, Pullman, Washington. Washington State University, Holland and Terrell Libraries
referencedIn New York Times Company records. Arthur Hays Sulzberger papers, 1823-1999 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS. [OCT. 25]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [NOV. 10]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [JUNE 13]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [OCT. 27]
creatorOf DiSalle, Michael V. (Michael Vincent), 1908-1981. Papers [microform], 1951-1953. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [APR. 3]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MAR. 8]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MAR. 29]
creatorOf Manny, Frank Addison, 1868-1954. Frank Addison Manny papers, 1890-1955. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS. [NOV. 5]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. Paramount news [Mar. 24]
referencedIn Vanderhoof, Frank E., b. 1888. Frank E. Vanderhoof papers, 1933-1956. Library of Congress
referencedIn Spokane Chamber of Commerce. Records, 1885 - 1997. Eastern Washington State Historical Society
referencedIn Fox Movietone News Collection. 1957 - 1963. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 1957 - 1963. Movietone News, Vol. 42, No. 48
creatorOf DiSalle, Michael V. (Michael Vincent), 1908-1981. Papers 1951-1953. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Chester Bowles papers, 1924-1982 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [FEB. 2]
referencedIn National Association of Manufacturers (U.S.). Records of senior staff, 1922-1971. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MAR. 8]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [FEB. 14]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [OCT. 20]
referencedIn G. Mennen Williams papers, 1883-1988, 1958-1980 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [DEC. 2]
referencedIn Fox Movietone News Collection. 1957 - 1963. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 1957 - 1963. MOVIETONE NEWS, vol. 41, no. 21
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [NOV. 19]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [NOV. 2]
referencedIn Colgren, Joan,. Joan Colgren collection, 1897-1944. Western Michigan University, Dwight B. Waldo Library
creatorOf Hart, James, 1896-1959. Letters to Professor James Hart from eminent Americans in the fields of politics and political science on governmental policy and problems [manuscript] 1915-1953. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MAR. 3]
referencedIn Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America. Records 1912-1980. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MARCH 5]
creatorOf Johnston, Eric A. (Eric Allen), 1895-1963. Correspondence to Van Wyck Brooks, [between 1953 and 1961]. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Fox Movietone News Collection. 1957 - 1963. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 1957 - 1963. Movietone News, Vol. 42, No. 80
referencedIn National Foreign Trade Council. Captin Robert Dollar Memorial Award records, 1938-1983 Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [OCT. 24]
creatorOf Johnston, Eric A. (Eric Allen), 1895-1963. Reminiscences of Eric A. Johnston : oral history, 1959. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [DEC. 27]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [SEPT. 24]
creatorOf Eric A. Johnston Papers, 1920-1963, 1940-1963 Eastern Washington State Historical Society/Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture Joel E. Ferris Research Library and Archives
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [NOV. 11]
referencedIn Fox Movietone News Collection. 1957 - 1963. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 1957 - 1963. Movietone News, Vol. 44, No. 96
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [AUG. 5]
referencedIn National Foreign Trade Council. Captin Robert Dollar Memorial Award records, 1938-1983 Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Davis, William Hammatt, 1879- . Papers, 1905-1963. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Frank Manny papers, 1890-1955 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [JULY 19]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS. [DEC. 3]
creatorOf Alderman, Edwin Anderson, 1861-1931. Commencement addresses at the University of Virginia, 1911-2006. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn "March of Time" Collection. 1934 - 1951. March of Time Documentary/Newsreel Films Relating to U.S. History, Government, Politics, Culture, and International Affairs. 1935 - 1953. REPORT ON THE ATOM United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [FEB. 10]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MAR. 2]
referencedIn Records of the Office of War Information. 1926 - 1951. Motion Picture Films from "Russian News" Newsreels. 1942 - 1945. RUSSIAN NEWS (1944, NO. A)
referencedIn Fox Movietone News Collection. 1957 - 1963. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 1957 - 1963. Movietone News, Vol. 43, No. 15
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MAR. 9]
referencedIn Blair Moody Papers, 1928-1954, 1934-1952 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Records of the Office of War Information. 1926 - 1951. Motion Picture Films from "United News" Newsreels. 1942 - 1945. SHANGHAI HAILS CHIANG KAI-SHEK [ETC.]
referencedIn Fox Movietone News Collection. 1957 - 1963. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 1957 - 1963. MOVIETONE NEWS, vol. 41, no. 88
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MAR. 3]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [APR. 16]
referencedIn Fox Movietone News Collection. 1957 - 1963. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 1957 - 1963. Movietone News, Vol. 43, No. 41
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [NOV. 30]
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [DEC. 4]
referencedIn Bowles, Chester, 1901-1986. Chester Bowles papers, 1924-1982 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf General Records of the Department of State. 1763 - 2002. General Records of Ambassador Eric Allen Johnston's Jordan Valley Mission
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bowles, Chester, 1901-1986. person
associatedWith Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. corporateBody
associatedWith Colgren, Joan, person
associatedWith Columbia Electric corporateBody
associatedWith Columbia Electric & Manufacturing Co. (Spokane, Wash.) corporateBody
associatedWith Davis, William Hammatt, 1879- . person
associatedWith DiSalle, Michael V. (Michael Vincent), 1908-1981. person
associatedWith Edgerton, Ralph P, Judge. person
associatedWith Fix, Harriet person
associatedWith Franklin, Joan, person
associatedWith Franklin, Robert, person
associatedWith Hanson, Elizabeth person
associatedWith Hart, James, 1896-1959. person
associatedWith Johnston, Eric. person
associatedWith Manny, Frank Addison, 1868-1954. person
associatedWith Messersmith, George S., (George Strausser), 1883-1960 person
associatedWith Moody, Blair, 1902-1954 person
correspondedWith Morgenstern, William D. person
associatedWith Morgenstern, William David, 1933- person
associatedWith Motion Picture Association corporateBody
associatedWith Motion Picture Association of America corporateBody
associatedWith National Association of Manufacturers (U.S.). corporateBody
associatedWith National Foreign Trade Council corporateBody
associatedWith New York Times Company corporateBody
associatedWith Spokane Badminton Club corporateBody
associatedWith Spokane Chamber of Commerce. corporateBody
correspondedWith Vanderhoof, Frank E., b. 1888. person
associatedWith Williams, G. Mennen, 1911- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Spokane (Wash.)
Spokane (Wash.)
Subject
Spokane
Business, Industry, and Labor
Internal security investigations
Public Finance
Chamber of Commerce of the U.S
Sound Recordings
Motion pictures--Censorship
Executives--Interviews
Motion pictures--Production and direction
International relations
Motion picture industry
Washington (State)
Spokane--Businesses
Media and Communication
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1895-12-21

Death 1963-08-22

English

Information

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