Herman Russell

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When Herman Russell bought his first plot of land, the year was 1946 and the cost was 125 dollars. The boy was just 16 … and had no idea he’d someday build some of Atlanta’s best known buildings … much less found and chair the nation’s largest minority-owned real estate business. But he did.

There were some humble steps along the way for Russell. He went to college, then worked as a plastering subcontractor with his father. Soon he started general contracting and formed the H.J. Russell Construction Company. His firm built the Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, and the headquarters for Georgia-Pacific and Coca-Cola… and then took on the Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Stadium, Turner Field and Philips Arena. In the midst of all the building, Russell was named the first black member of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

Today, 79-year-old Russell has built up Atlanta in another way — using his money to help bring the Martin Luther King papers to Atlanta, and donating a million dollars each to Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Georgia State University.

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