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Herman J. Russell, a prominent Atlanta businessman responsible for helping to develop the city’s many top destinations, died over the weekend. He was 83.

Born December 23, 1930, Russell was raised in the Summerhill section of the city, the youngest of eight children. His father was a building plasterer, passing on the trade and his work ethic to Russell as a boy.

Russell discovered his path early on; according to a Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, he purchased his first piece of land for $125 when he was 16. Russell used the property as a means to help pay his way through college.

Russell entered Tuskegee Institute (now University) after high school and earned a degree in building construction. He returned to Atlanta and continued the H.J. Russell & Company plastering business, inherited from his father. By the ’60s, Russell began scoring big home and building development jobs.

Throughout the next two decades, Russell’s empire expanded enough for him to become the first Black to join what was then known as Atlanta’s Chamber of Commerce.

Russell developed or worked in conjunction with other firms to build the Georgia Dome, the Georgia-Pacific headquarters building, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Turner Field and many other Atlanta landmarks. Russell’s firm is also part of a development team that will build a new Atlanta Falcons stadium valued over $1 billion.

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