Alonzo Herndon

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Alonzo Herndon
Atlanta Life Insurance in its early days

Alonzo Franklin Herndon (June 26, 1858 Walton County, Georgia – July 21, 1927) was a businessman and the founder and president of the Atlanta Family Life Insurance Company (Atlanta Life).


Born into slavery, he was the son of his white master, Frank Herndon, and an enslaved woman, Sophenie. Together with his mother, her parents, and his younger brother, Herndon was emancipated in 1865, aged seven years old.

The family worked in sharecropping in Social Circle, Georgia, forty miles east of Atlanta. In 1878, Herndon left Social Circle on foot and eventually went to Jonesboro, Clayton County, where he opened a barbershop. Herndon had only saved 11 dollars and only had approximately one year of schooling. His barbering business thrived and expanded over the years; and he went on to invest in real estate, and then entered insurance. He successfully built up the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, operating in Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas.[1]

Through his enterprises Herndon became Atlanta's first black millionaire. His home, Herndon Home, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. His son, Norris B. Herndon, expanded the company into a multi-million dollar empire.[2][3][4] Herndon attended the First Congregational Church[5]

The Herndon Home was built in 1910 and may be visited at 587 University Place NW in the Vine City neighborhood. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2000.[4]

Herndon Homes, an Atlanta public housing project (now demolished) was named for Herndon, as was Herndon Stadium at Morris Brown College, which was the field hockey venue at the 1996 Summer Olympics.


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