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Atlanta Life

“If I thought that anything with which I was connected would always be small, I would not want to be in it.”

Alonzo F. Herndon

Alonzo Herndon

Source: Provided / Radio One Atlanta

Over 100 years ago a former slave, Alonzo Franklin Herndon, founded what would become Atlanta Life Financial Group. A sharecropper from Social Circle, Ga., He parlayed his haircutting skills into the finest men’s barbershop in Atlanta, catering to white businessmen who populated Peachtree Street until his shop was damaged during the 1905 Atlanta race riots. An indomitable entrepreneur, Herndon was a real estate investor, a world traveler, an amateur architect, a pillar of black Atlanta, and its wealthiest Black man. His mansion, built by Black artisans in 1910, today abuts the Morris Brown College campus and is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes.  Admired and respected by many, he was noted for his involvement in and support of local institutions and charities devoted to advancing African-American business in community life.

The company that Herndon founded with a $140 investment in 1905 (Atlanta Life) was the outgrowth of one of the many benevolent societies catering to low and moderate-income consumers. Salesmen sold the company’s low cost industrial insurance door-to-door at a time when, perhaps, they were the only black men passing through a southern town wearing suits and ties.

Over time, the company continued to serve this customer base, occasionally buying similar companies when they fell on hard times. In order to assure its continued independence at a time when similar companies were duped into being sold, the company kept its ownership concentrated in the Herndon family and its affiliate, The Herndon Foundation.

Atlanta Life became a household name to Black families throughout 17 States. Its salespeople collected premiums weekly and the company became woven into the fabric of the communities it served through its strong civic involvement and through its pivotal role in the underpinnings of the Civil Rights Movement.  Atlanta Life was even quietly responsible for providing bail for countless students arrested during the Sit-In Movement.

Continuing to build on over a century of service, Atlanta Life Financial Group has three (3) subsidiaries which include: Herndon Capital Management (HCM), an institutional investment management firm specializing in large and mid-capitalization equity strategies; Atlanta Life Insurance Company (ALIC), the oldest member of Atlanta Life Financial Group’s Family of Companies whose capabilities include reinsurance of group life insurance and dental benefits; and the Atlanta Life General Agency (ALGA), a multi-line insurance broker that offers commercial lines of property & casualty coverage, including E&O and D&O, as well as life, health and other financial service products.

Atlanta Life First Building

Source: Provided / Radio One Atlanta


For more information, please visit the company’s website at HERE.


Saluting Auburn Avenue: Atlanta Life Financial Group  was originally published on