Atlanta, Georgia: In Memoriam, Alonzo Franklin Herndon, South-View Cemetery

Alonzo F. Herndon Gravestone South-View Cemetery Atlanta
Alonzo Franklin Herndon (1858-1927). South-View Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia
Alonzo F. Herndon, Blackpast.org
Alonzo F. Herndon. Blackpast.org

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.

Herndon Barber Shop, 1903. Atlanta History Center

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.

Alonzo Herndon (left) with brother Thomas, and mother, Sophenie, ca. 1890. Of his mother, Herndon noted “(she) was emancipated when I was seven years old and my brother Tom five years old. She was sent adrift in the world with her two children and a corded bed and [a] few quilts. . . . She hired herself out by the day and as there was money in the country, she received as pay potatoes, molasses, and peas enough to keep us from starving.” – Georgia Encyclopedia and the Herndon Home.

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.

Herndon Home, 1 University Place. Atlanta, Ga.

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. — The New York Age, July 30, 1927

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