Wilkes County Hall of Fame 613 Cherry St, North Wilkesboro, NC 28659 • (336) 667-1121

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Richard Blaine Johnston

Year Inducted: 2016

Richard Blaine Johnston was born on May 20, 1915, in North Wilkesboro to Andrew Blaine Johnston and Gertrude Hunt Johnston. He graduated from North Wilkesboro High School in 1932 and from the University of North Carolina in 1935 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. During his time off from school, he worked in every department of the American Furniture Company founded by his father.

Johnston served his country in the United States Army Air Corps from 1941-1944 in the Guadalcanal Campaign and the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific during World War II. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for participating in aerial combat and was awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry with five confirmed aerial kills. Johnston later tested the nation’s first jet fighters before the public knew they existed. After his military service, Johnston continued to pilot the company plane to his business activities.

Richard Johnston served the local furniture industry from 1935-1975. He was the son of the American Furniture Company founder, Andrew Blaine Johnston. The American Furniture Company began in North Wilkesboro in 1927. Richard was one of the founders of Drew Furniture Company founded in 1955. Serving as its President from 1957-1975, American-Drew Furniture employed 1200 people at the time of his retirement in December 1975. The Cherry Grove Dining and Bedroom Collection, made in the Drew factories received national design, marketing acclaim and broad consumer acceptance. In 1969, Johnston served his industry as President of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association, the trade association of the furniture manufacturers of the southern United States.

Johnston served his community. He was President of the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce in 1949. From 1955-1961, he was one of the original committeemen and the final Chairman of the Flood Control Committee of the Chamber of Commerce that initiated and built the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir in Wilkes County. Richard Johnston was a Wilkes County Commissioner and a charter member and later Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Wilkes Community College.

Richard Blaine Johnston and his wife, Elicia Caroon Johnston, had four sons: Richard Blaine Johnston, Jr., William Charles Johnston, Joseph Andrew Johnston and Keith Wythes Johnston.