Wallace E. Johnson
Named by the Saturday Evening Post as Memphis' "Henry Ford of the building industry," Wallace E. Johnson is one of the most well remembered entrepreneurs of the city's history. Born into a poor Mississippi farm family, Wallace E. Johnson grew up around housing construction. He went into the home-building business in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 38, with a $250 loan, and within a few years his business was the largest and most successful in the South. In 1953, he joined with Kemmons Wilson to kick-start one of the most well-known business success stories of modern times - Holiday Inn. Together, they built a chain of coast-to-coast inns, offering comfortable accommodations for families at reasonable prices.
Mr. Johnson was also chairman of the board of Medicenters of America, Inc., which he founded in 1966 with Kemmons Wilson. He was also one of the founders of the Home Builders Association of Memphis. He retired as vice chairman of Holiday Inns Inc. in 1977. He and his wife Alma were involved in Union Avenue Baptist Church and in philanthropic endeavors. Johnson Avenue in East Memphis was named for him.