Hall of Fame: Lasting Influences

Arthur Blank and Alana Shepherd join Georgia Trend’s Most Influential Hall of Fame.

Arthur Blank

Co-founder, The Home Depot
Owner, Atlanta Falcons

When Arthur Blank founded The Home Depot with Bernie Marcus in 1978, no one knew how significantly their home-improvement superstore would change not only their own lives, but the lives of handy men and women around the world – and the character of Atlanta, which continues to reap the benefits today.

Ask Blank and he’ll tell you the secret to his success. It’s simple, really. You can even practice it yourself. “We spent a lot of time listening to the people we’re serving,” he says. “We spent a lot of time talking to our associates [at The Home Depot] who are closest to those people that we’re serving and trying to respond to what we hear from them in terms of things they like [and] things they want to see different or better.”

It’s not just in his business where Blank listens. By listening to Falcons fans, soccer fans and the people on Atlanta’s Westside, he has had a profound impact on the very look and feel and culture of Georgia’s capital, making Atlanta safer, more inclusive and more fun.

The places that bear Blank’s imprint include Atlanta icons – and icons to be – like the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium that will be home to the Blank-owned Atlanta Falcons and new Major League Soccer team Atlanta United FC. But he hasn’t confined his clout to a stadium. As part of its mission to promote positive change in people’s lives and to enhance the communities in which they live, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has invested millions into the Westside neighborhood of Atlanta, site of the stadium, for years.

“That area of Atlanta is historically important to Atlanta, the region, the state, really, the nation,” Blank says, by way of explanation for his foundation’s emphasis on the area.

And how does his $1.5-billion stadium fit in? “We viewed this huge project as an opportunity to create positive activity, not only in the construction of the stadium over a three-year period, but beyond that, to be a catalyst for changes – physical changes and changes in human capital, social behavior, etc., for the people living in those communities,” he says.

And how does he know what kinds of changes that area is looking for? It all comes back to the secret to his success.

“I don’t think people listen as often, generally in life, as they should. [The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People author] Stephen Covey, one of his favorite expressions is ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood,’” Blank says. “I think that generally in life it’s a good attitude to have. You have to listen pretty intently and pretty objectively.” – Karen Kirkpatrick

Alana Shepherd

Co-founder, Shepherd Center

The largest center in the country for rehabilitation of spinal and brain injuries wasn’t founded by doctors but by a patient and his family – the Shepherd family of Atlanta. In 1973, when her son James suffered a serious spinal cord injury, Alana Shepherd learned that facilities for treatment of such injuries were few and far between.

“Very few places specialized in spinal injuries,” Shepherd says. “It wasn’t a money maker, so the big hospitals didn’t want to go into it. Many doctors felt it was a depressing specialty, and few wanted anything to do with it.”

To fill the void in rehabilitation care, Alana and her husband Harold, along with James and Dr. David Apple, founded the Shepherd Center in 1975. From a six-bed operation, the Shepherd Center has grown to a 152-bed hospital, the largest of its kind, and the only spinal center that includes an intensive-care unit and a program for adolescents. The center has hosted patients from every state and 62 foreign countries. Importantly, the center emphasizes mental and emotional as well as physical rehabilitation.

“It took someone coming from the patient’s side of this situation. I know how the families feel,” Shepherd says. “Many doctors, even today, don’t know what to say to the patient and their family about these injuries. They don’t know how to offer hope. We knew there was a way. You have to show them you’re going to help them get back into their community in the best possible shape that they can. They’re going to be better than the day they came in, and that outlook gives everybody confidence and a good feeling about doing this kind of work.”

Shepherd still works in the hospital on a daily basis as a volunteer, meeting patients and their families, and she continues to work to raise operating funds. She’s particularly proud of the center’s SHARE Military Initiative for veterans with traumatic brain injuries, which has helped more than 600 veterans in the last eight years.

“There’s always a better way to do everything, and you need to be looking for it every day,” she says. “But you need to do it with great compassion, with great humor, and viewing the person not as somebody who’s had a devastating injury but as the individual they really are.” – Lindsay Thomas Jr.

Past Hall of Fame Inductees


Bill Bolling
Founder & Former Executive Director,
Atlanta Community Food Bank

Saxby Chambliss
Former U.S. Senator


John Lewis
U.S. Congressman
Civil Rights Leader

Robert Shaw
Chairman/CEO, Engineered Floors
Former Owner, Shaw Industries


R. Charles “Charlie” Loudermilk
Founder & Chairman Emeritus, Aaron’s Inc.

Monica Pearson
Former News Anchor, WSB-TV


Otis Brumby (1941-2012)
Publisher, The Marietta Daily Journal & Neighbor Newspapers

Bobby Cox
Retired Manager, Atlanta Braves
2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee


Ray Anderson (1935-2011)
Chairman, Interface Inc.

David Ratcliffe
Former CEO/Chairman/President, Southern Co.

Franklin Skinner
Former CEO/Chairman, BellSouth Telecommunications


Dr. Joseph Lowery
Minister, Civil Rights Leader

Bill Shipp
Political Columnist


Spurgeon Richardson
Former President/CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau


Hank Aaron
Baseball Legend
Founder/Owner, 755 Restaurant Corp.

Mack Mattingly
Former U.S. Senator
Former Assistant Secretary
General (NATO)
Former U.S. Ambassador (Seychelles)

Carl Patton
Former President, Georgia State University

Herman J. Russell (1930-2014)
Chairman/Founder, H.J. Russell & Co.


A.D. “Pete” Correll
Former Chairman/CEO, Georgia-Pacific Corp.

Bernie Marcus
Co-founder, The Home Depot

William S. Morris III
Chairman/CEO, Morris Communications Co.


James Blanchard
Retired Board Chairman & CEO, Synovus Financial Corp.

Zell Miller
Senior Strategic Advisor, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP
Former Governor
Former U.S. Senator

Betty Siegel
Former President, Kennesaw State University


Tom Cousins
Former Board Chairman, Cousins Properties Inc.

Vince Dooley
Athletic Director Emeritus, University of Georgia


Tommy Irvin
Former Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture

Manuel Maloof (1924-2004)
Longtime DeKalb County CEO and Commissioner

Sam Massell
President, Buckhead Coalition
Former Mayor, City of Atlanta

J. Mack Robinson
Businessman and Philanthropist

Ted Turner
Founder, CNN, TNT and TBS
Environmentalist and Philanthropist


Griffin Bell (1918-2009)
U.S. Attorney General
U.S. Circuit Court Judge

S. Truett Cathy (1921-2014)
Founder, Chick-fil-A

Jimmy Carter
Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Former U.S. President

Rosalynn Carter
Former First Lady
Mental Health Advocate

Thomas B. Murphy (1924-2007)
Longtime Speaker,
Georgia House of Representatives

Sam Nunn
Former U.S. Senator
National Defense Authority

John C. Portman Jr.
Architect, Developer and Entrepreneur

Carl Sanders (1925-2014)
Governor (1963-1967)

Dr. Louis Sullivan
Founding Dean, Morehouse School of Medicine
Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services

Andrew Young
Former Mayor, City of Atlanta
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Civic Leader

Categories: Business Industry, Features, Hall of Fame, Honors, People