The Russells' Chosen Theme

From his humble beginnings in segregated Atlanta when he shined shoes as a kid to put money in his pocket that his parents could not, Herman J. Russell knew he was going to defy expectations. “To hell with segregation. I’m going to be what I want to be,” he used to tell himself. That ambition and grit took him from shining shoes to owning a stand where he also sold candy and shoestrings. From there, he followed in his father’s hard-working footsteps and became a master plasterer, paying his way through Tuskegee Institute. Next came civil rights strategist. Economic generator. Builder. And, ultimately, founder of the largest African American, family–owned real estate development, construction, and airport concessions businesses in the country for 60 years and counting.

With pure grit, a vision to succeed, commitment to quality workmanship, responsibility to family and community, and uncompromising integrity, Mr. Russell created an empire that was built to last. He helped forever transform the Atlanta skyline with such projects as Coca-Cola Enterprises, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, luxury high-rise apartments, State Farm Arena, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, to name a few. His tenacity and can-do spirit resulted in sound business practices that he instilled in his adult children. They have continued to grow their father’s legacy to pass on to their children, grandchildren, and future generations.

Born without a silver spoon to make life’s harsh realities more palatable, H. J. Russell and his children Donata, H. Jerome, and Michael are living proof that if a door isn’t open, try a window. If the window is closed, try the chimney, but don’t give up. That’s pure grit; built to last.


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