Michael R. Hollis, entrepreneur and founder of Air Atlanta has died from pancreatic cancer at age 58, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At 27, Hollis made history when he founded Air Atlanta in 1984, the first airline to be owned and operated by an African American. The airline folded in 1987 but that did not stop Hollis; it barely slowed him down.
“He believed in himself, and had a lot of self-confidence,” said Daniel Kolber, Hollis’ longtime friend and lawyer to the AJC. “He wasn’t afraid of rejection. Every time he got a ‘no’ he felt like that was one more ‘no’ closer to a ‘yes.’ ”
Hollis went on to found Hollis Communications with friend H.J. Russell and the partners ended up owning a radio station that was later sold to Cox Enterprises. He started other businesses including a petroleum company, a credit company and various retail stores.
He also sat on several boards including the Atlanta-Fulton County Hospital Authority, which was very close to his heart.
Hollis was an alumnus of Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia Law School and was the first African-American president of the latter’s chapter of the American Bar Association.
Hollis is survived by his wife Deena Freeman Hollis, sisters Virginia E. Hollis and Joan Hollis Mitchell and brothers Flem H. Hollis and Julius Hollis, who was also one of his business partners.