Visiting Mt. Calvary Cemetery on a snowy Saturday. Civil War veteran Pvt. Henry Hopper (1821-1900), of the 4th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry, is in the foreground.
New York Age – July 30 1927
Alonzo Herndon, Wealthy Atlanta Man, Died July 21
From Barber to Insurance Head and Millionaire
Atlanta, Ga. – After an illness that lasted through several months Alonzo F. Herndon, president of the Atlanta Life Insurance Co., died at his late residence, 1 University place near Atlanta University on Thursday night July 21, aged 69 years, leaving an estate estimated at near $1,000,000.
Mr. Herndon came to Atlanta in 1882, and laid the foundation of his fortune by working at his trade as a barber. He later bought control of the Atlanta Mutual Insurance Co, an industrial benefit organization, which was expanded under his management into the Atlanta Life, a regular straight line insurance company.
Wise and conservative investments in Atlanta real estate contributed toward the building of his fortune. He was also president of the Southview Cemetery Association, providing a burial ground for members of his race.
He was born at Social Circle, a few miles from Atlanta, in 1858, and stayed there until 1882. Within three years, he was operating his own barber shop, and he was located first on Whitehall street in the old Markham House; then he moved to Marietta street and in 1902 he opened the shop at 66 Peachtree street the present main shop. He employed 42 barbers, and served only white customers.
Caused Repeal of Law
As an evidence of the esteem in which he was held by the white citizens of Atlanta, it is said that when the Atlanta City Council passed an ordinance barring Negro barbers from shaving white patrons Mr. Herndon’s white friends were leaders in the reaction which led to repeal of the ordinance.
Mr. Herndon was active in all matters that pertained to the welfare of Atlanta, and was linked with much of the city’s early history. When the Community Chest was established, he became a large subscriber, and his contribution for 1926 was $1,200.
Without relinquishing his barbering interests, Mr. Herndon years ago, foresaw a prosperous future for the insurance proposition and when the opportunity offered took over the Atlanta Mutual. He surrounded himself with capable staff and although he found some of the officials were inclined to try to unduly enrich themselves at his expense, his native wit and sturdy common sense enabled him to discover these attempt in time so that serious losses were prevented.
Today the company has offices in eight states, with 700 employees in the various offices.
Built Magnificent Home
He attracted country-wide attention, some 15 years or more ago, by building what was at that time the most spacious and most costly mansion owned and occupied by a colored family in Georgia, possibly the whole South. An unusual feature of the structure was a small but completely equipped theatre auditorium, with state, dressing rooms, curtains and other paraphernalia. This was for the pleasure of his first wife, the former Miss Adrienne McNeil of Augusta and Sarienne McNiel of Augusta and Savannah, who was head of the department of elocution at Atlanta University and herself a talented and trained dramatic reader.
It was a tragedy that Mrs. Herndon died just as the home was being finished leaving one son, Norris Herndon.
Besides this home Mr. Herndon owned a large parcel of property. (From The New York Age, July 30, 1927).
On Tuesday, February 23, occurred the death of one of the race’s most noted characters, General Robert Smalls, in his seventy-sixth year of age. He had been sick for about ten months at his home on Prince street, and all the members of the family were around the bedside when the end came.
Born in Beaufort on April 5, 1839, he was a river pilot by profession. During the civil war he was used as pilot by the Confederates on a privateer, the Planter, which had been fitted out as a gunboat.
On May 13, 1862, Pilot Smalls took the Planter, which was being used as the special dispatch boat of General Ripley, the Confederate post commander at Charleston, from the wharf at which she was lying and carried her out of the Charleston harbor, under the Confederate guns, and delivered the vessel to Captain Nichols of the Federal ship Onward, one of the fleet of Federal ships blockading Charleston harbor at the time. He was put in charge of the gunboat Crusader as pilot, serving also on the Planter, and was in charge of the vessels during many engagements with Confederate forces, both naval and land. He was pilot on board the monitor Keokuk when that vessel was struck ninety-six times in the attack on Fort Sumter on April 7, 1863, sinking the next morning, just after Smalls and the crew had been taken off.
Saved Vessel When Captain Deserted Post
In December, 1863, Smalls was on the deck of the Planter, which was being piloted by Captain Nickerson. While passing through Folly Island Creek the Confederate batteries at Secessionville opened a hot fire on the vessel.
Nickerson deserted the pilot house and hid himself in the coal bunkers. When Smalls discovered that the captain had deserted the pilot house in a panic he took command of the boat and piloted her out of reach of the guns.
For this feat he was promoted by General Gillmore, commanding the Department of the South, to the rank of captain and put in command of the Planter. He served in this capacity until the end of the war, the Planter being used as a supply boat along the coast, and in September, 1866, he carried the boat to Baltimore, where she was put out of commission and sold.
A bill was introduced into the Forty-seventh Congress “authorizing the President to place Robert Smalls on the Retired List of the Navy.” The bill did not pass on the ground that there was no precedent for placing a civilian on the retired list of the navy.
Elected to Congress
Returning to South Carolina in 1866, Captain Smalls was elected to the State Constitutional Convention, and in 1868, he was elected to the State Legislature. He introduced the Homestead Act and Civil Rights Bill, securing the passage of the latter act. In 1870 he was elected to the Senate to fill the unexpired term Judge Wright, who was elected associate justice of the State Supreme Court. In 1872 he was elected for the regular term. In 1873 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel in the Third Regiment, South Carolina State Militia, being successively promoted to be brigadier-general of the Second division, State Militia. He was legislated out of this position by the Democrats when they came into power in 1877.
He was elected to Congress from his district, being a member of the Forty-seventh, Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth Congresses. He was finally unseated by being counted out by the Democrats, who secured control of the election machinery in his district.
General Smalls was appointed by President McKinley as collector of the port of Beaufort, S. C., and this position he held continuously until displaced by Wilson in 1913. He was delegate to the National Republican Convention at several sessions and attained national prominence in Republican politics.
Surviving him are two daughters and one son, Mrs. S. J. Bamfield, who served for a number of years as postmaster at Beaufort; Mrs. Sarah Smalls Williams and William B. Smalls. (From The New York Age, March 4, 1915)