Community News: Westside Leader Herman J. Russell remembered

Last month, Herman J. Russell (1930-2014), founder and former CEO of H.J. Russell & Company, was remembered and honored with the dedication of the H.J. Russell Community Room at the Vine City Chick-fil-A. Herman was a passionate supporter and builder of the historic Westside, a torch his family now continues to carry in his memory.

Russell was a nationally recognized entrepreneur and philanthropist who turned a small plastering firm into one of the most successful African-American-owned real estate development and construction companies in America. An Atlanta native, Russell grew up in the Summerhill neighborhood and attended David T. Howard High School. After high school, Russell went on to earn a building construction degree from Tuskegee Institute (later Tuskegee University). He then returned to Atlanta where he built a construction empire that challenged the racial status quo of African Americans.

Russell was a leader in the Atlanta business community and was the first black member of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce before going on to become the second black president of the Chamber. A close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Russell was also a community leader and served on the boards of several organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church. A year before his passing, Russell was inducted as a Georgia Trustee by the Georgia Historical Society and the Office of the Governor.

The ribbon cutting was attended by Herman’s widow and Westside Future Fund board member Sylvia Russell along with Herman’s three children and their spouses. Also joining the Russell family at the ribbon cutting were Westside Future Fund President and CEO John Ahmann, Chick-fil-A Chairman and CEO Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A Vine City restaurant owner and operator Quincy Springs IV.

“A critical part of our collective work is to lift-up and champion the legacy of Westside leaders such as Mr. Russell,” said Ahmann. “The ribbon cutting was a true celebration of Herman’s life and I was honored to be among those invited.”

Read more in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by the Russell family, including daughter and Westside Future Fund board member Sylvia Russell, along with John Ahmann, Dan Cathy and Quincy Springs IV.

Attendees bowed their heads in a moment of silence to remember the legacy of H.J. Russell during the dedication.

H.J. Russell’s family attended the event and remembered the legacy of their husband and father.