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Meet The Russells: The Hall of Fame Family of Atlanta

By Titus Falodun Staff Writer | 9/20/2013, 4:22 p.m.
Honorees, Dean, and Mr. Russell: (L-R) George McKerrow Jr., president and CEO, Ted’s Montana Grill, Michael Russell, CEO, H. J. Russell & Company, Donata Russell Major, CEO, Concessions International, Herman J. Russell, chairman, H. J. Russell & Company, Jerome Russell, president, H. J. Russell & Company, H. Fenwick Huss, dean, Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University. Photo courtesy of Georgia State University.

Builder Herman J. Russell, Sr. felt like the proudest father in Georgia as he watched his three adult children H. Jerome Russell, Michael Russell and Donata Russell Major being inducted into the Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business Hall of Fame, Tuesday evening (Sept. 17) at the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead.

“It’s not easy when you have three kids and have them take over all of your enterprise,” Russell said. “I’m very grateful for that, because there’s so many things that can get you off the track.”

In 1946, Russell was just 16 years old, with nothing more than $125 dollars and a dream, when he bought his first plot of land. Now, his three children work as executives in both of his Atlanta-based companies. Donata, the eldest, is the CEO of Concessions International LLC, and Jerome is president of the H.J. Russell & Company, where Michael serves as CEO.

Russell, his family and staff have built the company into one of the largest black-owned corporations in the U.S. It has been on the Black Enterprise 100 Top Black Companies since its inception over 20 years ago.

“Georgia State has a big business role in the community, in general, developing leaders,” Donata said. “So, for us to not only have the personal connection, but also the business connection with them is really tremendous.”

The Russell children, as well as George W. McKerrow, Jr., Ted’s Montana Grill president and CEO, were honored with video tributes and compliments.

Twenty-eight years after Georgia State’s original hall of fame induction, which honored Herman Russell, among others, the stern but loving father could not help but feel a sense of pride and joy.

“Our family business had multiple platforms, so we were all able to run different lanes,” Jerome said about he and his siblings finding their natural place in their father’s business. “That worked because we were not stepping on each others toes. So, we’re blessed.”

The Russell family represents what Georgia State hopes to be for the Atlanta community-at-large.

“The college does this induction ceremony for two big reasons,” Dean of Business H. Fenwick Huss said. “It’s to recognize people in the community who have been successful and who have also done great things for the community. It’s also to show students examples of what a person can do in life professionally and in their community.”

At the end of the night, Jerome Russell spoke about how his family’s simple formula of being close-knit made it easy for them to be successful, which led Michael to quip, “Couple things, Jerome—we’re dysfunctional too, but we get it done though.”