ROSE HILL, N.C. – The founder of the House of Raeford Farms, Marvin Johnson, has died at the age of 89.

The company said in a news release Wednesday that he passed peacefully in his sleep at home Wednesday morning.

Johnson, a poultry industry pioneer, got his start on the streets of downtown Rose Hill, North Carolina, selling live turkeys grown in his own backyard. That led Marvin and his brother, Bizzell, to the local Sears where they purchased their first incubator and a few turkey eggs.

After serving overseas during World War II as a Merchant Marine, Marvin returned to Rose Hill and joined his father and brother in building the town’s first feed mill. That was in 1955. The feed mill led the family to expansion, adding a chicken hatchery, and obtaining ownership interest in Rose Hill Poultry and Raeford Turkey Farms in Raeford, N.C.

After a few years, the Johnsons became the sole owners of Rose Hill Poultry, Raeford Turkey Farms became House of Raeford, and the two were joined together. The company said that Marvin even paved the way for turkey to become a marketable product throughout the year rather than just during the holidays. House of Raeford was the first to process turkeys year-round, and invented the retail deli turkey breast and whole cooked turkey, among many other products.

House of Raeford Farms is now among the top 10 chicken producers in the country as well as one of the largest family-owned businesses in North Carolina. It has operations in Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina, employing more than 5,500.

Marvin served as president of the National Turkey Federation, N.C. Poultry Federation, and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, and was inducted into the N.C. Poultry Hall of Fame in 1996. He was named Chairman of the Board Emeritus in 2010 as he moved away from day-to-day operations with his son, Bob, at the helm.

Marvin Johnson had a tremendous impact on the industry and his community and will be remembered as a visionary entrepreneur, a community leader, and a dedicated family man whose wit and humor will never be forgotten.

The family will receive visitors from 6-9 pm tomorrow, August 18, at Rose Hill United Methodist Church. A funeral service will be held at Rose Hill United Methodist Church at 11 am on Friday, August 19.In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to Rose Hill United Methodist Church or the House of Raeford Farms FLOCK ministry. Donations to Rose Hill United Methodist Church should be mailed to P.O. Box 177, Rose Hill, NC 28458. Donations to House of Raeford’s FLOCK ministry should be mailed to P.O. Box 699, Rose Hill, NC 28458.