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A builder's breakthrough: the story of Herman J. Russell

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Atlanta, the city too busy to hate.

The well-known slogan for the state's largest city may capture the progressive thought and focus given the city's growth and global prominence, but one (or many) can argue that to some, it seemed pretty hollow. Given the challenging conditions forged during the Jim Crow Era, some would say were it not for the Civil Rights Movement, the city's exponential growth would not have taken place to the degree that it seemingly has.

The same holds true for people who serve as catalysts for change. The story of one Herman J. Russell clearly epitomizes how one's breakthrough provides a reference or building point for something greater in light of the socioeconomic hurdles present. And on Thursday, April 10th, at 6pm (at the Loft at Castleberry Hill), the general public can enjoy an intimate evening with the architect of one of the nation's most profitable minority-owned conglomerates (tickets are available online by visiting Eventbrite).

With the launch of his book Building Atlanta, Russell's professional and personal story, including his efforts to serve as an agent of change in Atlanta's peaceful progression to being the financial center of the New South, are among the topics covered. Ranging from his personal journey through the constraints of racism, poverty, and a speech impediment, to his early forays into building his own business(es), including his initial efforts of having a shoeshine business (at the age of 12) and using the profits to purchase his first property (a vacant lot where he built a duplex as a teenager), are among the many items discussed in his book.

Over the past 50 years, Russell is a mainstay in the worlds of construction, business, and social change. More impressive than his millionaire status prior to the advent of the Civil Rights Movement may be his sense of focus, planning, humility, and consciousness on improvement of the human condition. Among his many efforts highlighted include his support and financing of the movement, its leaders (including Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, and many others), including payment of bond for a number of those involved in the protests.

Collaboration with individuals from multiple ethnic groups, insight on sound business practices and success, and the need to remain engaged with the community are other items Russell is speaking on. The founder and former CEO (and current chairman of the board) of H.J.Russell and Company and Concessions International is simply sharing his story to encourage and involve others to be the most well-rounded and sincere people possible as it relates to entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and civic involvement.

And that is something to build on.

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