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Herndon, Alonzo

Alonzo Herndon, the first major black entrepreneur in Atlanta history, was born into slavery in Walton County, Georgia on June 26, 1858. After the Civil War, he moved to Jonesboro, where he opened a barber shop. Within a few months, he moved to Atlanta and began working in a downtown barber shop for blacks. Before long, Herndon owned several Atlanta barbershops , though the most famous was the “A. F. Herndon’s Tonsorial Palace” which opened in 1902 on 66 Peachtree St. With mirror-lined walls, this glamorous facility was the most famous barber shop in the South - and some would say the entire United States. Its all-black staff served an all-white clientele that included Atlanta’s leading citizens. Herndon’s real success, however, came in insurance. By the time of his death in 1927, his Atlanta Life Insurance Company served the black community in eight states. Eventually it would become the largest black-owned insurance company in the U.S. - and is still in business today. Herndon died in Atlanta on July 21, 1927.