Alonzo Herndon

Listen here »

When Alonzo Herndon died in 1927, he was Atlanta’s wealthiest black man, respected for his support of local black charities.

But the beginning of his life couldn’t have been more different. In 1858, Herndon was born a slave near Social Circle, about 40 miles east of Atlanta.

His mother was a slave, his father a white slave owner. When the Civil War ended, Herndon’s father forced Alonzo, his mother, brother and grandparents to all leave.

To support his family, Herndon sold peanuts, molasses, and even axle grease. Eventually he opened a barbershop for whites in Jonesboro. By 1904, he owned three barbershops in Atlanta and Herndon and his black staff were known as the South’s best barbers. But racial practices wouldn’t allow Herndon’s shops to service blacks.

In 1905, Herndon established Atlanta Mutual Insurance Association, later known as the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. That first year, he opened 23 offices in Georgia with more than 211 employees.

Today, Atlanta Life Insurance operates in 17 states with assets over $200 million and 2 million customers. It is still one of America’s largest black financial institutions.

For more information, visit the following:

Lastest News from WABE 90.1 FM

Voters' Guides to State School Superintendent, DeKalb School Board Races

For today's primary runoff election, we have brought back our voters' guides for the state school superintendent's position as well as for the three DeKalb County school board posts that are still ...

Low Turnout Expected for GA Runoff Elections

Georgia voters are heading to the polls to cast ballots in several run-off elections.

There are more than 200 polling locations and about 1,600 poll workers helping Georgians vote today.

However, off...

Eight Things You May Not Know About Atlanta's Cyclorama

The Atlanta Cyclorama is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta has been on display in the center of Grant Park for more than a century.

Most people in...