#MillionaireMention from @hellomynameisking Alonzo Franklin Herndon was one of the first Black millionaires in the United States.
Herndon worked on his father’s, a white farmer, plantation until legislation passed the 13th Amendment. He then became a sharecropper and supplemented his family income by working as day laborer and street peddler.
At the age of 20, Herndon left his family and moved to Jonesboro, Georgia where he opened his first barbershop. As he developed a reputation as a barber, his business thrived.
In 1883 Herndon migrated to Atlanta, and by 1904, Herndon owned three barber shops in Atlanta. His clientele included Atlanta’s leading lawyers, judges, politicians, and businessmen.
As his earnings grew, Herndon began to invest in real estate, purchasing more than 100 rental houses, commercial property in Atlanta, and a plantation near Tavares, Florida. At the time of his death Herndon’s real estate holdings were valued at nearly $325,000.
In 1905, Herndon purchased a failing insurance company, which he incorporated as Atlanta Mutual Insurance Association. At the time, the company had $5,000 in assets. By 1922 they had more than $400,000 in assets.
The Company rapidly expanded, establishing branches in Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas. Herndon saved other failing insurance companies by merging their company with Atlanta Life Insurance, claiming his efforts were designed to build confidence in black businesses and save jobs for African American men and women. Regardless of the reason, his acquisition strategy made Atlanta Life one of the most successful black businesses in the nation by the 1920s.
Herndon was a also founding member of Booker T. Washington‘s National Negro Business League in 1900 and was one of the original members of the W.E.B. DuBois-led Niagara Movement.
Alonzo Herndon died in Atlanta on July 21, 1927 at the age of 69. Today his house, the Herndon Home is registered as a National Historic Site.
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