Atlanta's Distinguished Businessman Herman J. Russell's Book Signing

'Building Atlanta: How I Broke through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire'

By John Smith, Jr. | 4/10/2014, 12:03 p.m.
Guest interviewer Angela Robinson congratulates Herman J. Russell at the conclusion of his interview during his book signing event held at Paschal's Restaurant, on April 1, 2014. Photo by Horace Henry.

Atlanta businessman, construction management mogul, philanthropist and now author Herman J. Russell (chairman, H. J. Russell & Company) has released his book entitled “Building Atlanta: How I Broke through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire.” On March 31, he had a reception and book signing celebrating the release of his new book.

Award-winning broadcast journalist Angela Robinson hosted the event and interviewed Russell on his life, struggles, and how he broke through segregation to launch his business empire. The interview was serious and at times brought memories that provoked tears and laughter. Many know of Russell as the founder, former CEO, and current chairman of the board of H. J. Russell and Company and Concessions International and as one of Atlanta’s civic leaders. His fingerprint is on so many landmarks in Atlanta and throughout the United States. He has also been a heavy influence on bringing opportunities and diversity to the metro Atlanta area, in business and politics.

During the interview and “Talk with H. J. Russell”, Robinson quoted excerpts from the book. There is a moment in the book when Russell recalled his approaching the Atlanta City Council Aldermen and his experience with racism and discrimination when he attempted to obtain a permit for property and for business opportunities. Russell commented on his determination to overcome poverty and segregation. The book continues, “Nothing would keep me from my goals.” Russell gave a bit of advice for young people pursuant of their dreams: “Never give up. Always stay focused and work hard and believe in themselves.”

Commenting on his gracious nature and challenges to others to help throughout their communities, “There are few regrets when you give back. I believe in God…. When you give back, you receive more than you have given and that has always been true with my giving back,” Russell said.

Russell was influential in the Civil Rights Movement, being a big supporter of leaders such as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Andrew Young. In addition to investing in the Atlanta Inquirer newspaper, Russell invested in several Atlanta business opportunities including sports teams. A teary-eyed Russell recalled joyous times as he remembered when the Braves came to Atlanta, led by his friend “Hammerin’ Hank.”

Also at the event were H. J. Russell’s children: Michael Russell (CEO, H. J. Russell & Company); Donata Russell Major (CEO, Concessions International); and Jerome Russell (president, H. J. Russell & Company). Andrew and Carolyn Young, Hank and Billye Aaron, Xernona Clayton Brady, and renowned Atlanta architect John Portman were also present.

Russell, Herman J., and Bob Andelman. Building Atlanta: How I Broke through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press, April 2014. Print. ISBN-10: 1613746946; ISBN-13: 978-1613746943.