Culture

Building Atlanta: Herman J. Russell Doc Premiered in ATL

By MBE Magazine Staff 
Last updated on February 17th, 2020 11:47 am
Photo of entrepreneur Herman J. Russell leaning on his knee on a balcony with the Atlanta skyline behind him.

Herman Russell not only left his mark on the skyline of his hometown; he helped to make real the legacy of a city too busy to hate.

ATLANTA– Building Atlanta: The Story of Herman J. Russell, a documentary film about the inspiring life and legacy of Atlanta businessman and founder of one of the country’s largest black-owned commercial real estate development and construction firms, premiereds on ATL PBA on Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 9 p.m. and will re-air on Sunday February 23, 2020 at 7 p.m. The nearly hour-long film took more than a year to produce and features interviews with notable Atlantans who knew Herman J. Russell well. 

Check out a60 secondtrailerof the film.

“For our family, having our fathers and grandfathers story told through the eyes and words of those who knew him best is a particularly impactful approach the filmmakers use,” said Herman J. Russell’s son, Michael B. Russell, CEO, H. J. Russell & Company. “As humble as he was, I think he would enjoy seeing what his friends had to say about him in addition to seeing his life story on television. He would hope this documentary will inspire people, particularly young people, to strive even harder to reach their personal potential against all odds, and that’s what we hope it does too.”

Herman J. Russell, the founder of Atlanta-based H. J. Russell & Company and Concessions International, LLC, is known for helping build the Atlanta skyline as it’s seen today, as well as for shaping the airport dining experience for travelers throughout the country and the U. S. Virgin Islands since 1952 and 1979, respectively. However, his beginnings were humble. The Great Depression was a challenging time for most Americans, but particularly for a young African-American boy who was born in 1930 in the segregated South. As early as the age of 8, Herman J. Russell was inspired to build and own real estate, and to be his own employer. Through watching his father run his own plastering business and feeling the urgency and necessity to create jobs during the hard economic times, his entrepreneurial spirit was born and lasted throughout his life until his passing in 2014.

The documentary features Herman J. Russell’s proteges along with business partners who witnessed his challenges of the times. Robert “Bob” Holder, founder and chairman of Holder Construction, said “Herman and I were born within a month of each other, and within three miles of each other, but the two worlds could not have been more different. Everything I was born into was designed to make sure I succeeded; everything he was born into was designed to be sure he did not succeed. And Herman, in his lifetime, overcame all of that.

As a lasting legacy to Herman J. Russell, his family has created the Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (RCIE), designed to encourage and support generations of entrepreneurs, especially Black entrepreneurs, as he did throughout his life. “The documentary is the inspirational back story on which the RCIE is being created,” said Herman J. Russell’s son and namesake, H. Jerome Russell, Jr., chairman of the board, RCIE. “We want current and aspiring entrepreneurs to come to RCIE to reach their potential as entrepreneurs, and this film will help our members understand the legacy and foundation on which RCIE is built.”

Building Atlanta: The Story of Herman J. Russell documentary, is produced, written, edited and directed, in coordination with the Russell family, and for ATL PBA, by Emmy Award-winning father and son co-directors, David and John Duke of Living Stories Film & Video.

The documentary is airing exclusively on ATL PBA, and the station will share it as part of its education outreach initiatives.

After the second airing on ATL PBA on Sunday, February 23, the full documentary will be hosted on H. J. Russell & Company’sYouTubechannel, and eventually onpba.org.