Portraits highlight history of Atlanta Life Insurance Company buildings

A series of portraits on the former Atlanta Life Insurance Company buildings are providing a peek into the company’s legacy and that of the Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn district.

The project, called Windows Speak, are the first in a series of events and exhibitions presented by Sweet Auburn Works about life on Auburn Avenue, according to a news release about the project. Sweet Auburn Works, or SAW, is a non-profit, community-based economic organization that focuses on revitalizing the Sweet Auburn Historic District while preserving its history.

The exhibit will be a permanent fixture on the historic buildings, which housed the business offices of Atlanta Life Insurance from 1920 to 1980. The building sits in the heart of the district.


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Many of the windows feature executives from the company, including entrepreneur, founder and president Alonzo Franklin Herndon. Herndon became Atlanta’s first African-American self-made millionaire and ran the company from its inception in 1905 to 1927, according to the release.

Civil rights activist Jesse Hill Jr., who served as president and chairman of the board, will also be featured on the building.

Other prominent company figures featured on the buildings are Herndon’s son Norris Bumstead Herndon, who served as president; Alonzo’s wife and actress Adrienne Herndon; Edward L. Simon, former chairman of the board and auditor; and Henrietta Antoinin, former vice president of public relations.


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