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Alonzo Herndon

Alonzo Herndon, Atlanta’s First Black Millionaire

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Alonzo Herndon was an African American entrepreneur who founded and was the first president of Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

Born in Walton, Georgia on a farm near Social Circle, to Sophenie Herndon, a slave. His father was Frank Herndon, a white farmer to who owned his mother.

After moving to segregated Atlanta, Herndon opened several barbershops including the upscale Crystal Palace in 1902. In 1905, he purchased a small mutual aid association that eventually became the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

Headquartered here on Auburn Avenue, it grew into one of the country’s most successful black-owned businesses.

The Alonzo Herndon historical marker is located in front of the Georgia State University Honors College at 100 Auburn Ave.

The historical marker reads:

“Alonzo Herndon
1858-1927

Alonzo Herndon was born into slavery in Walton County, Georgia, in 1858. After moving to segregated Atlanta, Herndon opened several barbershops including the upscale Crystal Palace in 1902. In 1905, he purchased a small mutual aid association that eventually became the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

Headquartered here on Auburn Avenue, it grew into one of the country’s most successful black-owned businesses. A founding member of the National Business League organized by Booker T. Washington in 1900, and of the Niagara Movement (forerunner of the NAACP) organized by W. E. B. Du Bois in 1905, Herndon became noted for his involvement in and support of local organizations devoted to advancing African-American business and community life.

One of Atlanta’s most important twentieth-century entrepreneurs, Herndon died in 1927 and is buried in South-View Cemetery.”

Herndon’s residence is already a tourist destination and historic site in Atlanta. The Herndon Home, 587 University Place NW, is an ornate Beaux Arts house built in 1910.

The house was built exclusively by African American craftsmen and largely designed by Herndon’s first wife, Adrienne.

The Herndon Home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000.

Funding for the Alonzo Herndon marker, which was dedicated Oct. 27, came from the Georgia Historical Society, Georgia State University, Atlanta Student Movement Veterans of the 1960s and District 2, Atlanta City Council.

 

 

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