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The Atlanta Business League (ABL) recognizes local chief executive officers (CEOs) for outstanding participation in minority vendor development and community activities. The honors we confer are based in part on the willingness of these busy executives to provide vital support for the work of the Atlanta Business League, which supports and builds economic equality for minority enterprises.

Atlanta has the good fortune of being home to some of the nation's top multi-national corporations. Several of these powerful and globally recognized firms are led by CEOs who genuinely care about all the people in the communities they serve. Outstanding leadership has allowed our organization to contribute to our city and state continuously. The CEO Awards Luncheon enables us to honor exceptional leaders. It is our way of ensuring the memory of their accomplishments never dims.

Award Categories:

• Herman J. Russell, CEO of the Year

• Entrepreneur of the Year

• Trail Blazer

• Catalyst (a public official)

• Distinguished Service

• Thomas W. Dortch, Jr. League Leadership

• Visions of Excellence

• Chairman's Award

Jun 11, 2024

11:30 AM - 1:30 PM (EDT)

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Atlanta Marriott Marquis
265 Peachtree Center Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia

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45th Annual CEO Awards Luncheon Honorees

The Catalyst Award recognizes the contribution of an elected official for his/her effort to enhance opportunities for minority businesses. 

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual who has distinguished himself or herself as a community and civic leader in Atlanta and throughout the nation.

The Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes an outstanding minority business owner who is a proven leader in his/her industry, evidenced by financial success and commitment to community service.

The Herman J. Russell CEO of the Year Award is the most prestigious recognition for CEOs. It recognizes the true measure of a CEO's success, commitment, and fairness to people while maximizing shareholder profits. 

The Thomas W. Dortch, Jr. League Leadership Award is the ultimate badge of honor for an Atlanta Business League member. It recognizes the ABL volunteer who continuously makes significant contributions to the League's mission and goals.

CATALYST Award: The Hon. Nikema Williams

Congresswoman Nikema Williams has been a fierce advocate for social justice, women and families throughout her political and professional career.

As a Member of Congress, Congresswoman Williams continues to uplift the legacy of her mentor and predecessor, Congressman John Lewis, by fighting to prevent voter suppression and expand free and fair access to the ballot box. She always centers the voices of those who are most marginalized. She brings this concern to Congress having seen firsthand how women and people of color continue to fight for racial and social justice in our country.

Congresswoman Williams was elected as the Freshman Class President for the 117th Congress. As President, she organized and advanced the interests of her Freshmen Democratic colleagues to fulfill their oath to work for the people. She has membership in several caucuses including the Congressional Black Caucus, Democratic Women's Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus, Voting Rights Caucus, LBGTQ+ Equality Caucus and the HBCU Caucus.

Congresswoman Williams has a passion for a number of legislative issues including voting rights, reproductive justice, social justice, economic justice and healthcare—her work addresses delivering on the promise of America for all.

Congresswoman Williams has a history of advancing the issues that matter to Georgians and underserved people across the country, regardless of their bank account or ZIP code. Before her congressional service, Congresswoman Williams served in the Georgia State Senate. As a State Senator, Williams got in the "Good Trouble" Congressman Lewis spoke about. In the wake of the disastrous 2018 Georgia elections, marked with rampant voter suppression, she was arrested at the Georgia State Capitol while peacefully protesting with her constituents, demanding that every vote be counted.

Congresswoman Williams was born in Columbus, GA and raised by her grandparents in Smiths Station, Alabama. She attended Talladega College – a liberal arts Historically Black College (HBCU) in Talladega, Alabama – where she was initiated into Chi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

Congresswoman Williams has been recognized as one of Georgia Trend magazine's 100 Most Influential Georgians, Forty under Forty, Power 30 Under 30, Outstanding Atlanta, and Who's Who in Black Atlanta. As State Senator, she received the Freshman Legislator of the Year award from the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and the 2020 Pinnacle Leadership Award from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Recently, she was awarded the ACLU of Georgia's Dare to Create – Liberty Award.

Congresswoman Williams and her husband, Leslie Small, reside in Atlanta with their son, Carter.

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE Award: The Hon. Michael Thurmond

Michael L. Thurmond won a 2016 landslide victory to become chief executive officer of DeKalb County, one of the most diverse counties in the Southeast. Since his Jan. 1, 2017 swearing-in, Thurmond's primary mission is restoring trust in county government. His other priorities include adopting a balanced budget, ensuring accurate water bills, removing blight, offering summer youth employment, improving employee compensation, and fulfilling the federal/state sewer consent agreement.

Thurmond, a former member of the Georgia General Assembly and the first African-American elected to a statewide office without prior appointment, is widely regarded as a "turnaround expert" after fundamentally transforming the culture and enhancing operations of complex organizations such as the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, the Georgia Department of Labor and the DeKalb County School District. 

As superintendent of DeKalb schools, Thurmond is credited with stabilizing the system during a governance crisis, upgrading its threatened accreditation, eliminating a multimillion-dollar deficit, and improving student academic performance and graduation rates.

Thurmond was raised as a sharecropper's son in Clarke County, Georgia. He graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion from Paine College and later earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of South Carolina's School of Law. He also completed the Political Executives program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

In 1986, he became the first African-American elected to the Georgia General Assembly from Clarke County since Reconstruction. During his legislative tenure, Thurmond authored major legislation that provided more than $250 million in tax relief to Georgia's senior citizens and working families.

Thurmond received a gubernatorial appointment to lead the state Division of Family and Children Services and direct Georgia's historic transition from welfare to work. He created the innovative Work First program, which helped more than 90,000 welfare-dependent Georgia families move from dependence into the workforce.

In 1997, Thurmond became a distinguished lecturer at the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The following year, he was elected Georgia labor commissioner.

During his three terms as labor commissioner, Thurmond's most significant achievement was the construction of a $20 million school for children with disabilities at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute.

Thurmond's latest book, Freedom: Georgia's Antislavery Heritage, 1733-1865, was awarded the Georgia Historical Society's Lilla Hawes Ward. In 2004, The Georgia Center for the Book listed Freedom as one of The 25 Books All Georgian's Should Read. He serves on the University of Georgia Libraries Board of Visitors. 

He is married to Zola Fletcher Thurmond, and they have one daughter, Mikaya.


Tharon Johnson is the founder and CEO of Paramount Consulting Group, a full service, bipartisan government affairs and communications firm based in Atlanta, serving clients in the corporate and political sectors.

A nationally recognized political strategist and trusted community leader, Tharon appears each week on Fox 5 Atlanta's longest-running public affairs program, "The Georgia Gang" and on 90.1 WABE-FM's popular "Political Breakfast" podcast, ranked among the top 40 political podcasts nationally. He is also the author of the award-winning column "Red, Blue, and You," which can be found monthly in Georgia Trend magazine.

Tharon advises elected officials at the highest levels of government. Most recently he served as a senior advisor to the Biden-Harris campaign in the battleground state of Georgia. He has served at senior levels of federal, state, and local campaigns, including for President Barack Obama, Congressman John Lewis, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Congressman John Barrow and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond.

He appears regularly as a key contributor on news shows, including CNN, MSNBC and Atlanta's WSB-TV, providing timely insights on political developments at the national, state and local levels. He also is frequently quoted in Newsweek, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Politico, Roll Call, The Hill and other notable publications.

Tharon was named both a "Top Lobbyist" and one of the "Top 25 Most Influential Georgians" by James Magazine. The magazine has also repeatedly recognized Paramount Consulting Group as one of Georgia's top small, non-law firm affiliated lobbying firms. He was also named one of Atlanta's most powerful leaders in 2023 and Atlanta Business League's entrepreneur of the year for 2024. He was the youngest and first African American to receive the "Campaign Manager of the Year" distinction from the American Association of Political Consultants. In addition to his political honors, Tharon was also awarded the "Unsung Hero Award" by his alma mater Clark Atlanta University for outstanding contributions in Arts & Sciences. His board positions include the Atlanta Beltline Partnership, John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation, Leadership Atlanta, First Tee Metro Atlanta, Clark Atlanta University, and Atlanta Ballet.

Tharon is married to dermatologist Dr. Chynna Johnson, who owns and manages her own practice with offices in Atlanta and Alpharetta. They have two young sons, Tyeson and Tatum.


Keith T. Parker, a seasoned executive with a rich history of board service and CEO experience, is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Goodwill of North Georgia (GNG). GNG, one of the largest retail and nonprofit organizations in the southeast, operates across a 45-county territory with 69 stores, 49 attended donation centers, and 14 career centers.

Parker's leadership has been instrumental in GNG's success, employing over 3,000 team members who play a direct or supporting role in the organization's operations. Annually, GNG serves more than 7 million shoppers and, through the revenue generated in its stores, trains and connects tens of thousands of North Georgians to employment annually. This has established GNG as the #1 Goodwill in the nation for connecting people to jobs among its 158 affiliates.

Before his tenure at GNG, which began in October 2017, Parker served as CEO of the largest transit systems in several cities, including San Antonio, Charlotte, and most recently, Atlanta. His five-year leadership at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) transformed it from a beleaguered transit agency with major budget deficits and public image issues into a fiscally sound, award-winning organization.

Parker's leadership roles have not been limited to executive positions. He has a long history of service to nonprofit, charitable, and corporate boards. He remains active and engaged with the Rotary Club of Atlanta, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta Fire & Rescue Foundation, Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, Learn4Life, and Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

On a national level, Parker serves on several prominent boards including The Eno Center for Transportation while having served on National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC), to which he was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2016. On the corporate side, Parker serves on the Fifth Third Bank Advisory Board as well as the VHB Architecture and Engineering Board of Directors. Recently, Parker began his tenure on the board of Directors at Wellstar Health System, a hybrid corporate and nonprofit board.

Parker's commitment to his alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), is notable. He received the VCU Alumni Star Award in 2015, followed by successive appointments to the VCU Board of Visitors by Governor Terry McAuliffe (2016) and Governor Ralph Northam (2020). More recently, Parker was unanimously elected Rector and Chairman of the VCU Board of Visitors, further highlighting his board leadership experience.

Throughout his career, Parker has received numerous awards and accolades as a transformational leader and transportation visionary. He has won multiple CEO awards in multiple states and was recognized as the nation's Outstanding Public Transportation Manager by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) in 2015. In 2023, Parker was selected to be added to the Titan 100 Hall of Fame.

Parker and his wife are natives of Virginia and have 3 children. He holds an MBA from the University of Richmond.


Eric Pinckney is a legacy principal at The Integral Group (Integral), an Atlanta-based, mission driven real estate development and investment management firm. He came to Atlanta, GA to study Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. While pursuing his undergraduate degree, he was tutored youth and assisted the resident association, further encouraging his lifelong commitment to developing the proverbial African village. "It takes a village to raise a child."

Pinckney volunteered as a tutor and coach to children at Techwood/Clark Howell Homes, a nearby housing project in 1980. His witness of the negative effects of gentrification in Boston led him to advise residents to reject offers from real estate developers because he believed the best way to build sustainable communities was to create villages like the one he experienced in Roxbury.

After graduating, Pinckney spent the first three years of his career in mechanical engineering in Orlando and Chicago, before returning to Atlanta in 1989. He returned to find a different community. By 1990, 30313, the zip code for Georgia Tech and Techwood Homes, was the most violent zip code in America. It is under this backdrop that Pinckney, coached by Dr. Norman Johnson, PhD, sought to find innovative ways to rebuild communities.

After Dr. Johnson introduced Pinckney to Egbert Perry, Pinckney learned that real estate development could recreate economic diversity that had existed before the age of the outlawing of racial segregation. He then changed his educational focus to make his passion for building functioning communities into a profession. He then pursued a master's degree in City Planning from Georgia's Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, Pinckney was hired by Integral, where he has spent 30 years developing economically sustainable communities.

Throughout his 30-year career, Pinckney led neighborhood revitalization projects in Richmond, VA., Baltimore, MD., Washington, DC, Memphis, TN and Denver, CO. In 2002, he was named Vice President of Operations for Integral's development division. During that time, his dream of creating sustainable neighborhoods was becoming a reality for families and businesses all over the country.

He credits mentorship from Dr. Johnson, Perry, and Renee Glover, former president, and chief executive officer of the Atlanta Housing Authority, for helping him and Integral create some of the most successful and transformative residential developments in the nation.

Some of Pinckney's notable projects include the City of Atlanta's Olympic Legacy Program, Assembly at Doraville, Microsoft's acquisition of Quarry Yards. He is currently working with the 2 Peachtree Street project team towards the revitalization of Downtown Atlanta's Five Points district.

Pinckney earned a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master's degree in City Planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology. As a husband and father of two sons, Pinckney remains committed to building sustainable communities through his work and service on several boards, including the Atlanta Business League, Arthur Blank Family Youth YMCA, The Ascent Project, Commitment to Excellence, The Alliance at Cook Park, GTFCA, and Trustee for Central United Methodist Church. Pinckney is an active, life-member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.

Looking Back to 2023 / VIDEO

Early Bird Pricing

Early Bird registration prices end Saturday, May 18, 2024, at 11:55 PM.


PAST CEO Awards Luncheon Honorees (2023).pdf
2024 ABL CEO Awards Luncheon Sponsorship Benefits.pdf

Silent Auction

The Atlanta Business League's CEO Awards Luncheon includes a silent auction, a fantastic opportunity to support local businesses and community programs while engaging with Atlanta's business leaders. 

There's something for everyone at the silent auction. It's a perfect opportunity to find memorable gifts, treat yourself, and support the mission of the Atlanta Business League!

Some of our featured items include:

  • Airline tickets
  • Advertising Package - WCLK
  • Artwork
  • Cologne
  • Jewelry
  • Professional Services: Brandpreneur, Inc.
  • Surf and Turf Package - Meat Masters, Inc.
  • Weekend excursions

All items have been generously donated by local businesses and sponsors


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