Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire by Herman J. Russell with Bob Andelman

Books Of Interest (Book Review)

August 25, 2015

Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire by Herman J. Russell with Bob Andelman

Herman J. Russell, was born during the Great Depression, and Segregation in Atlanta, December 23, 1930. Growing up, he would learn some valuable lessons from his mother and father, which would serve him well, in the business and civic world, as a leader.

Segregation, would also serve to teach him about people, and life as well. From his standpoint, the institution diminished everyone. A good Christian, who was White, even following the Bibles instruction, to love thye neighbor as yourself, only viewed other Whites to be equal, because Black people weren't their neighbors.

While attending Tuskegee University, he received a certificate of Masonry, and started his own plastering business. After his father became ill, and couldn't work anymore he took over his fathers enterprise, naming it H.J. Russell Plastering Co. A little while later he decided to pursue expansion of real estate holdings, and starting building residential homes, and medium sized apartments buildings.

By the age of 40 he owned two thousand rental units, a property management firm, and an insurance company, all the while, in his won way becoming a fierce advocate for civil rights. He wasn't a front man, but nevertheless he played a valuable part in the Civil Rights movement. On March 15, 1960 during a demonstration, 77 students were arrested, and he utilized his property to post, a million dollar bond for their bail. In his personal life, Mr. Russell always seized the opportunity, to extend himself beyond the boundaries, racism presented.

From extremely humble beginnings, Herman would blossom into an extremely smart business man, who looked at things from many angles. So much so that one of his closest lifelong allies and business partners, would turn out to be a Greek by the name, of Jim Coclin. This gentleman would go into places, and conduct deals that Herman couldn't because, of the color of his skin. 

By the 1960's H.J. Russell & Company, would move on into General Contracting, and in Dec 1980, Mr. Russell was elected president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. In 1984 he's appointed trustee to the board of directors for the Commerce Club.

Breaking barriers, and achieving, had become the norm for Herman. yet he humbly admits his greatest achievement has been family. He's lived an amazing life, and this book, is nothing less than an inspiring read. 

Reviewed by Therone Shellman

You can purchase the book Here



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