Atlanta Life Mourns CEO’s Passing

Ronald D. Brown reinvigorated the century-old institution


The black business community lost one of its leaders Tuesday morning. Ronald D. Brown, 55, president and CEO of Atlanta Life Financial Group, died from complications after surgery. The executive was the driving force behind the transformation of Atlanta Life from an insurance company to a full-fledged financial services firm.

The company’s board of directors named William A. Clement as interim president and CEO.

Brown joined Atlanta Life in 2004, coming out of retirement to head the company. He had taken Synavant Inc., a software company, public, and had made a sizeable sum of money. However, Brown felt it was time to give back. “He was concerned about the future of African Americans and what this company meant to African Americans and how it would not only be supportive to those who are supporting the company today but our children and children’s children,” says Henrietta Antionin, vice president of public relations. “He wanted the company’s legacy to be strong and remain.”

It was that determination that brought Brown out of a comfortable retirement. “It isn’t [hard to come out of retirement] when there is a good enough reason,” he told BLACK ENTERPRISE during an interview a few weeks before his passing. “And I thought this was a good enough reason. Throughout my working career I made a lot of money for other people, and I’ve actually kept some of it for myself. And this was an opportunity to finally do something for people who look like me and make a difference. If done right it would really make a difference.”

He did more than just make a difference. In the ensuing years, he spearheaded the transformation of the company from an insurance provider with one revenue stream to a financial services business with arms in asset management, investment banking, and group reinsurance. He was a crucial part of the 2007 Jackson Securities acquisition which gave Atlanta Life a much-needed presence in the investment banking space.

Under Brown’s leadership, assets under management climbed from $54 million to more than $1 billion. Being a solid leader was something the Morehouse graduate was passionate about. “I use a phrase in all of my staff meetings: ‘None of us are as smart as all of us.’ And I believe that,” he had said. “This is about how well you can do something as a team. People didn’t create corporations and companies because they didn’t have anything better to do. They created them because they were stuff that they couldn’t do by themselves and they had to have other people.”

The loss of Brown’s leadership is a devastating blow to Atlanta Life. “I often thought of him as a player-coach because he would teach and coach. He was very much a student of the game of corporate life, which he saw as a subset of broader life,” recalls Donald Smart, chief legal counsel for Atlanta Life Financial Group. “Working with him was usually instructive,

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39 Responses to Atlanta Life Mourns CEO’s Passing

  1. Jerome Espy says:

    Great points. You have to take care of you as you grow the biz.

  2. “You are your business’ most valuable asset…you are your business”, Great Point!

  3. Bobby says:

    If you’re not healthy your business is not health.

  4. Kevin Amos says:

    Taking care of yourself is a must!!

  5. Eugenewjr says:

    Great point, being self employed you have to stay healthy and energized for the business.

    • I guess he’s saying that your business is as healthy as you are; especially in the beginning: If we are not healthy enough to run the business, the business suffers. So, well said, you HAVE to stay healthy.

  6. Veronica Young says:


  7. Veronica Young says:


  8. Veronica Young says:


  9. Adamah Ruach says:

    Excellent…I will follow this advice. 

  10. Awesome!
    Take care of yourself and you take care of your business…Balance is the key!
    I appreciate the idea that we need to treat ourselves as employees by scheduling breaks, lunch, extra.

    Thank you for the great information.

  11. Finding a balance provides great tips for maintaining your mind, body, and soul while building your business.

  12. Excellent reminders.  Your health is your business.

  13. Favort2 says:

    Excellent advice. I agree that in  order for the business to thrive and prosper we must keep ourselves  healthy by allowing some me time. Exercise, pray, meditate is very important in life and the life of our business.  Thanks !!!!

  14. Elle Mayo says:

    Oh my goodness this is so me.  I really needed these tips.  Thank you.

  15. Monica Ward says:

    Info was great to include break time on my to-do list. Thanks

  16. Rhonnda Ulmer says:

    Thank you Ms. Alfred for the great advice on finding a balance! My business most valuable asset is ME! Taking care me first, then my family is successful to my business. 

  17. Donna says:

    Sometimes it gets busy and you forget that you have a life outside the business. It is crucial to find time for the family, friends, interests, and yourself. That’s why balancing your time and health is so important.

  18. Cvanessaoatman says:

    Great advice! Love it 🙂 

  19. Caregivercenter says:

    Great tips. The stress that we subject ourselves to can be overwhelming at times.

  20. Valerie says:

    Excellent pointers!  I wasn’t able to do all of items # 1 thru 7, while working for corporate America.  Now that I own a full-time business, these principles are easy to achieve and have given me peace of mind, body, & spirit.  No more stress!!  Thank you A. Edmond Jr!

  21. Moremi says:

    I need balance. I’m a W@H employee with a home based business and my family.. my day starts @ 5:30am and it continues non-stop until late evening.. Everything is blending together.. I’m getting a chart and a timer.. lol

  22. Yvonne says:

    Great information. This area is my weakness, because I am so dedicated to my business. Thanks for the information, I will work on this immediately!

  23. This was very true to myself because I felt if I wasn’t thinking about my business 24/7 I was being a bad business owner and yet I wasn’t giving my family enough time as well. I’m glad to hear that I need to step back sometimes and focus on my personal as well as my business….Thanks BE for these courses!!

  24. I agree. taking care of yourself and family time helps with priorities in life and business.

  25. How do you separate your personal/business life without burning out…..

  26. Oneness4Real says:

    Great points, Bravo!

  27. Im so happy Ive got these on lock! once thing I can improve is my 15 minute quiet time.

  28. alicia says:

    great points!

  29. Cherry Heredia says:

    Hard stuff to hear, but very much needed. Im no the best at shceduling myself time let alone writing it down.

  30. Niesha Vincent says:

    Great advice…

  31. Janarthanan Dakshnamoorthy says:

    Good lesson.

  32. Thanks for that, sometimes we know, but hearing makes you want to stop and re-group.

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