Founder of Largest Black-Owned Construction Firm Dies

Herman J. Russell
Mr. Herman J. Russell
One of Atlanta's most respected business leaders has died at the age of 83. His name is Herman J. Russell, and that name is well known not only throughout Atlanta but throughout the business community. Mr. Russell became a legend as an entrepreneur who built the nation’s largest black-owned construction and real estate firm.

Russell's contributions

Mr. Russell traveled a long and fascinating road to success that began early and led to his owning the nation’s largest black-owned construction and real estate firm. He was only 16 years old when he bought a vacant lot for $125, which he later used to build a duplex. At the same time he was building his career, he never forgot the black community. He lent financial support to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was the first black member of the Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta and the second black person to serve as president of the organization.

Overcoming obstacles

Russell became successful in spite of many obstacles, such as a speech impairment. He broke through racial barriers when he entered the construction industry. He spent an unprecedented 70 years in the industry and shares his experiences in a book he authored entitled Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire.

Herman J. Russell will be missed by family, friends, and the business community who came to respect him as a hard-working, dedicated man and a mentor to black business owners nationwide. His many accolades include receiving Black Enterprise's highest recognition for entrepreneurship in 1997, the A.G. Gaston Lifetime Achievement Award, and one of only three companies who annually made the Black Enterprise 100s annual list of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses; the list began in 1973 and Russell was on the list every year.
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