1991 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Equip yourself well. Whatever you want to be, give 500% to that effort."
Herman Russell, the youngest of eight children, was born in 1930 in an Atlanta ghetto. His father worked as a plasterer, and Russell learned that trade from his father. When he was 16, Russell used the money he had saved working with his father and purchased a parcel of land for $125 and began to build a duplex. He graduated from high school and attended Tuskegee University in Alabama. During summers, he worked on the duplex that he had begun in high school. When it was finished, he used the rent money to help finance his education.
After his college graduation, Russell returned to Atlanta to work alongside his father as a plastering contractor. Four years later, after the death of his father, he took over the business and set about expanding it. He focused on the construction of duplexes and quickly moved up to building four-unit and eight-unit apartments. Eventually, he was building 400- and 500-unit complexes. After winning contracts on major buildings, including the Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Center, Russell became a full-fledged joint venture partner in many projects, including several Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority train stations, an $18 million construction of parking decks at Hartsfield International Airport, and the $115 million Georgia Pacific Corporation office tower. Today his company, which has expanded to include food and communications, employs more than 1,500 people in 11 subsidiaries and has annual sales that top $160 million.
Russell says that he gets the most fun out of life from his work. He claims: "I get high every day of my life, not from drugs, not from booze, but from having the satisfaction of working, putting deals together, helping to create jobs. I just hope that God will keep blessing me with my health so that I can keep doing the work that I've done to help make opportunities for all people."