Atlanta Beltline, Inc. president and CEO Clyde Higgs provided the most poignant and powerful moment at the Atlanta Business League’s annual CEO Awards Luncheon when he was bestowed the Visions of Excellence award.

Six business executives and entrepreneurs were honored at the tony Marriott Marquis hotel. But Higgs’ personal testimony gripped the audience when his voice quivered as he paid homage to his father for the indelible influence on his life.

“Wow, that that was great to see. So first of all, thank you to the Atlanta Business League for this recognition that is super special to me,” Higgs began after he watched the video tribute that included his father, a retired single-parent Air Force avionics course developer who retired after 20 years. “And please don’t let my sustained statements belie the importance of this recognition to me. And thank you so much for allowing my dad to be in this video. This is really special to me and I also want to make sure that I recognize the men and women at the Atlanta Beltline. I happen to be just in a good place with all these amazing people who are really, really driving this project forward.”

Higgs revealed his father had taken ill recently during his acceptance.

Each year the ABL recognizes local chief executive officers for their “outstanding participation in minority vendor development and community activities.”

Internationally influential business attorney Ernest Greer said he was humbled to be awarded the day’s highest plaque, the Herman J. Russell CEO of the Year Award. Greer, the co-president of the multinational law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP, was given the recognition named after the late, legendary Herman J. Russell. Russell enhanced Atlanta by making contributions beyond his groundbreaking construction and real estate company.

Greer said he is proud to have his name associated with the venerated Russell whose name and legacy continue to tower over this bustling metropolis.

“I am deeply honored to receive this distinguished award and be in the company of such an inspiring man who left an impact on the city of Atlanta far beyond his business endeavors,” Greer told the august body of luncheon attendees during his acceptance speech. “I was fortunate enough to have had Mr. Russell and a number of his business interests as clients. He taught me how to contribute to our great city in a way that adds value and to do so with humility and grace. As leaders, it is our responsibility to use our voices to fight for equality and inclusion and inspire our community to do the same.”

The others who were honored during this midday soiree are:

  • T. Dallas Smith, the president of the T. Dallas Smith & Company, who was named the Entrepreneur of the Year;
  • Lonnie Johnson, Ph.D., the president & CEO of the Johnson Research & Development, who was awarded Trail Blazer Award;
  • Eloisa Klementich, President & CEO, Invest Atlanta, who was honored with the Catalyst Award;
  • Gretchen Fuller, President & Chief Financial Coach, Warner Fuller Consulting, LLC, who earned the League Leadership Award

Fuller said she has dedicated her life and career to using her influence as a way to contribute to the city and empower others. 

“Leadership is often misused to obtain perceived power, invoke fear, enslave or belittle others. I believe true leadership is about taking a position of servitude to others to ensure their needs are met. According to Luke in the Bible, once we have done all that we have been commanded to do, we are servants merely doing our duty,” Fuller said. “Luke also tells us that who much is given much will be required. If we have been blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge and time, it is expected that we use these resources to benefit others.”

Clyde Higgs, 2nd from left, with members of the Atlanta Business League. (Terry Shropshire)

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