Herman J. Russell, a nationally recognized leader in Atlanta real estate and founder/retired CEO of H.J. Russell & Co. – the largest African-American owned construction company in the U.S. and one of the country’s largest minority-owned companies – died on Saturday at the age of 83.
“No words can express the depth of our sorrow and nothing will ever fill the void created by the passing of Mr. Herman J. Russell,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in a statement. “As the founder of one of America’s most successful construction and real estate businesses, Mr. Russell shattered countless barriers and created greater opportunities for all, but especially for African-Americans.
“When history catches its breath, Mr. Russell’s life work will place him among the most significant heroes of the Civil Rights movement because of his unwavering contributions and commitment to the progress of this city and nation. Few men have done more to make Atlanta a place where people of all races and backgrounds can bring and build their dreams.”
Started in 1953, H.J. Russell & Co. was a part of numerous Atlanta landmarks, including Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the Georgia Pacific tower, Coca-Cola’s headquarters, the Georgia Dome, Turner Field and Philips Arena, as the Atlanta Business Chronicle documented.
Russell not only served on the boards of National Service Industries, Citizens Trust Bank, Georgia Power, Wachovia Bank, Central Atlanta Progress, the Commerce Club, the Atlanta Action Forum and the Georgia Ports Authority, but he was also the first African-American member and the second black president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.