As chairman of H. J. Russell & Co., Herman Russell has changed the skylines of American cities and international hubs, developed business and political opportunities for African Americans, and broken barriers in the construction industry. One of the largest minority contractors, Russell has served as an advocate of and mentor to legions of black business owners nationwide. At the time that Russell received the award, his company was ranked No. 5 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE List with $164 million in gross sales.
In addition to constructing the headquarters of corporate giants like Coca-Cola and Wachovia, H.J. Russell served as one of the contractors that built the stadium for the Summer 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. The stadium and other facilities became part of an urban renewal effort in one of the city's badly deteriorated sections.
By 1997, Russell's son, H. Jerome Russell, was named president and chief operating officer of the firm while youngest son, Michael, was named vice president of joint venture construction. His daughter and oldest child, Donata Russell Major, became vice president of Concessions International Corporation. The new structure was the first step in the transition to the next generation. Surprisingly, Russell exited the CEO's office and filled the position with R.K. Sehgal, an outsider to the family business. Sehgal's tenure was short-lived though: After the two disagreed about the firm's direction, Russell returned to the helm by the end of 1998.
In 2003, Russell retired as CEO for a second time and installed his youngest son, Michael, into the top spot. Today, the firm continues to focus on high-profile construction projects as well as redevelop urban areas nationwide. In fact, it was ranked No. 15 on the 2013 BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE list with gross revenue of $248 million. The founder currently serves as the company's chairman and spends much time involved with philanthropic ventures.