Herman J. Russell, the iconic entrepreneur who built the nation’s largest black-owned construction and real estate firm, as well as much of the Atlanta skyline, died today at the age of 83. He was also a behind-the-scenes financial backer of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., later playing a critical role in the construction (both literally and in terms of economic and civic participation for African Americans) of the “New South” Atlanta during the administration of the city’s first black mayor, Maynard H. Jackson Jr. Russell was the first black member of Atlanta’s Chamber of Commerce and the second black person to lead the organization as its president.
Russell’s company, H.J. Russell & Company, which he founded as a small plastering business, is one of only three companies to rank among the Black Enterprise 100s annual lists of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses in every year since the rankings were first published in 1973. In addition to being recognized with the A.G. Gaston Lifetime Achievement Award, BE’s highest recognition for entrepreneurship, in 1997, Russell was also named among 40 “Titans: The Most Powerful African Americans in Business–and How They Shaped Our World” in the 40th anniversary issue of the BE magazine in 2010.
Source: Black Enterprise | Alfred Edmond, Jr.