Herman Russell, an Atlanta businessman who grew a small plastering company into one of the top construction and real estate firms in the nation, died Nov. 15. He was 83.

Russell died after a brief illness, his family told NBC Atlanta affiliate WXIA.

Russell bought his first plot of land when he was 16 for $125, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He soon formed a small plastering company which over the subsequent decades became a real estate powerhouse and help shape Atlanta’s skyline.

His firm, H.J. Russell and Co. played a part in buildings including the Georgia-Pacific headquarters, the Georgia Dome, and the Atlanta Falcons’ new $1.3 billion stadium set to open in 2017. His son, Michael, now serves as CEO of the company.

Along the way, Russell befriended many powerful individuals, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the Journal-Constitution reported.

“He was elated and proud of the fact that he was able to share his legacy with others and, most importantly, his grandchildren,” Michael Russell told the newspaper. “Herman Russell had a major impact on many of us and he lived a great life.”

“Today our city lost one of the best men it has ever produced,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed wrote on Twitter. “No words can express the depth of our sorrow as we remember Mr. H.J. Russell.”