From the website of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company

On this date in 1905, the Atlanta Life Insurance Company was founded by a former slave, Alonzo Franklin Herndon. It is the largest black-owned stockholder insurance company in America.

Alonzo Herndon

Alonzo Herndon, the former slave and sharecropper who founded the Atlanta Life Insurance Co. in 1905.

A sharecropper from Social Circle, GA., Herndon parlayed his haircutting skills into the finest men’s barbershop in Atlanta, catering to the 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 on Diamond Hill.

The company that Herndon founded with a $140 investment 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.

Continuing to serve its traditional customer base, 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. For instance, it was quietly responsible for providing bail for countless students arrested during the sit-in movement. Atlanta Life continues to serve its community by sponsoring cultural and educational events.

Read more here.

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ALIC headquarters building at Herndon Plaza, Atlanta, Georgia