James Bernard Johnson, a noted Charlotte businessman, died Wednesday, July 1.

A graduate of North Carolina Central and the Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania, he was CEO and principal shareholder of SB&J Enterprises Inc. and Clara Inc. Through those companies he operated three retail businesses at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.

Johnson, 66, died of an apparent heart attack. Hours earlier, friends said, he had attended the funeral of retired N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Clifton E. Johnson. The two men were friends and both members of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

The Rev. John B. Hicks, a Charlotte minister, said he and Johnson frequently played golf.

“He played anytime he had the chance to,” Hicks said. “He was at a point in life where I think he was about enjoying his time.”

Hicks and others described Johnson, known as “Bernie” to his friends, as an astute businessman who freely shared his knowledge with others, especially in the African American community. In the late 1990s, Hicks said, Johnson co-taught an investment class for members at First Baptist Church-West.

“He was a serous manager to say the least,” Hicks said. “He knew how to manage without physically being there. He easily recognized people’s strengths and weaknesses.”

According to Johnson’s obituary, he held management, administrative and consulting positions at Blue Chip companies such as IBM, E.F. Hutton and Barclay’s America. He also worked with various business groups in the Charlotte area, including The Employers Association, the Airport Minority Advisory Council and the Charlotte Chamber.

Local businesswoman Gloria Sloan said she and Johnson raised their children together in the city’s Hampshire Hills community.

“He was just a very good businessman,” she said. “I just always had a lot of respect for how he handled that.”

Visitation and Funeral services are scheduled for Tuesday, July 7, beginning at 11:45 a.m. at St, Paul Baptist Church, 1401 Alan St., Charlotte.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given in Mr. Johnson’s name to A Child’s Place, P.O. Box 33302, Charlotte, N.C., 28233, or First Fellowship Ministries of Charlotte, P.O. Box 26547, Charlotte, N.C., 28221.

Alexander Funeral Home is serving the family.

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