In Memoriam: Earl Johnson, Jr., 1931-2023
By Hannah Sundermeyer24 March 2023
Earl Johnson, Jr., 91, died peacefully at his home on Wednesday, March 15, 2023. He was a native of Raleigh, NC, the son of the late Earl and Josephine Johnson.
Johnson was born at Rex Hospital in 1931 and was a lifelong member of Christ Episcopal Church. He attended Broughton High School and later graduated from Virginia Episcopal School. Johnson graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, where he was a member of the Zeta Psi fraternity and played on the Men’s Lacrosse Team. In 1957, after serving as a U.S. Naval officer, he returned to Raleigh and married Margie of Richmond, VA, to whom he was happily married for 60 years.
Johnson began work with his father at Moore & Johnson Insurance Agency but discovered his true career direction when in 1962, he founded Carolina Crane Corporation, later named Southern Industrial Constructors, now one of the Southeast’s oldest and largest industrial construction companies. He was an extraordinary leader comfortable working with people from all walks of life, from the board room to the job site. To those who worked with him and many of his friends, he was fondly known as “Big Earl” and “Big E” to his family.
Johnson was devoted to civic engagement and was a generous philanthropist. He had a special dedication to the North Carolina Zoo Society, being its Chairman for many years, helping bring tigers there in the near future. His civic involvement also included serving on the Board of Governors of RTI International for 37 years and 18 years as its Chair. He served as aboard member, chair and president of the Boys and Girls Club of Wake County. He provided significant leadership to the boards of Ravenscroft School, Virginia Episcopal School, Rex Hospital, the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association and the Board of Visitors at UNC Chapel Hill, as well as being a member and president of the Oakwood Cemetery Board, and the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center Board of Visitors. He was also a member of the North Carolina Society of the Cincinnati. In 2010, he and Margie were inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame.
Besides his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Margery (Margie) Scott and sisters, Josephine (Billy) Ward and Betty (Billy) Ragland. He is survived by his son, Earl Johnson III (Carolyn) of Raleigh; daughters, Margie Springer (Rocky) of Raleigh and Caroline Douglas (Preston) of Boulder, CO; seven grandchildren, Earl Johnson IV (Allie), Sydney Beasley (Fletcher), Scottie O’Herron (Eddie), Curtis Springer, Ford Springer (Grace), Sam and Mary Scott Douglas, and two great-granddaughters Blair Beasley and Maggie O’Herron.