Celebrate Black History
Atlanta construction executive Herman Russell is a civic leader and philanthropist whose construction company ranks as the fourth largest in the U.S. The company has annual sales of more than $150 million and employs 700.
Russell, chairman/CEO of H. J. Russell & Co., was born on December 23, 1930, in Atlanta, one of seven children of Maggie and Rogers Russell. His father was a plasterer from whom he learned the trade starting at the age of twelve. He bought his first parcel of land for $125 at age sixteen, later building a duplex on the property. He used his savings to help pay his tuition at Tuskegee University. Returning to Atlanta, he worked alongside his father. After his father’s death in 1957, Russell took over the company and expanded it into a conglomerate that includes general contracting, construction/program management, real estate development and property and asset management. Russell’s other interests are in airport concessions.
In 1963, Russell became the first black member, and later president, of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. He also played a leading role in the modern Civil Rights Movement working very closely with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Russell has served also as a board member for civic organizations like the Allen Temple; Butler Street YMCA; Central Atlanta Progress; Tuskegee University; the NAACP Atlanta chapter; Citizens Trust Bank; Midtown Improvement District and the Georgia State University Advisory Board.
An avid supporter of Atlanta and its youth, Russell is the founder of the Herman J. Russell Entrepreneurial Scholarship Foundation for an Atlanta elementary school. Among his recognition awards are induction into the Junior Achievement Atlanta Business Hall of Fame in 1992, and recipient of the Horatio Alger Award in 1991. He and his wife, Otelia, reside in midtown Atlanta. They are the parents of two sons and a daughter, who are executives with H. J. Russell Co.
This Day In Black History (Feb. 12):
1. 1ST BLACK TO SPEAK IN THE CAPITAL (1865) – Henry Highland Garnet (December 23, 1815 – February 13, 1882) was an African American abolitionist and orator. He was the first black minister to preach to the United States House of Representatives.
2. NAACP FOUNDED (1909) – The NAACP was formed partly in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, the capital of Illinois and resting place of President Abraham Lincoln. Appalled at the violence that was committed against blacks, a group of white liberals that included Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard, both the descendants of abolitionists, William English Walling and Dr. Henry Moscowitz issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice. Some 60 people, seven of whom were African American (including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell), signed the call, which was released on the centennial of Lincoln’s birth.
Other early members included Joel and Arthur Spingarn, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Sophonisba Breckinridge, John Haynes Holmes, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Henry White, Charles Edward Russell, John Dewey, William Dean Howells, Lillian Wald, Charles Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, Fanny Garrison Villard, and Walter Sachs.
3. NBA STAR BILL RUSSELL WAS BORN (1934) -Bill Russell a 5 time NBA MVP for the Boston Celtics the team he led to championships 11 times first as a player then as a player/coach which also made him the first African American to coach an NBA team.
He also won a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics (Melbourne, Australia) as captain of the U.S. national basketball team.