Obituary: Charles Ackerman

Obituary: Charles Ackerman

The real estate developer and security company founder changed the skyline of Buckhead.

Charlie Ackerman
Charlie Ackerman

Charles “Charlie” Ackerman of Atlanta passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. He was 84 years old.

He is survived by daughter Carlyn Ackerman of San Francisco, daughter Paige Ackerman Prill of Seattle, grandson Dylan Henry Prill, brother Dr. Robert Ackerman and stepbrother Alan Rosenthal.

Charlie Ackerman was born in New York City in 1933. He graduated high school at Horace Mann in New York in 1951, then received his bachelor of science degree from the University of North Carolina in 1955. Ackerman went on to serve two years in the United States Army from 1955 to 1957. He continued his higher education at the Emory University School of Law from 1957 to 1960. In later years, Ackerman also attended Georgia State University to obtain a graduate degree in anthropology. His graduate degree included a six-month stint in which he lived with and studied an indigenous tribe in Costa Rica.

An icon and leader in the Atlanta commercial real estate world, Ackerman began his career as a tenacious real estate leasing agent working for Alan Grayson Realty Co. in 1957. His competitive spirit and work ethic led him to establish Ackerman & Co. in 1967, which is now one of the Southeast’s largest full-service real estate firms.

Ackerman’s vision forever changed the skyline of Buckhead with the construction of the first high-rise office building, Tower Place, built in 1973. This was followed by other development projects, including the Swissotel, now the Westin Buckhead Atlanta; the former Rio shopping center in Midtown; and Crowne Pointe in Central Perimeter. He also spearheaded major developments in Gaithersburg and Baltimore, Md. A large part of Ackerman’s real estate success came from his desire not only to build a great property, but also to create an atmosphere that catered to the needs of its tenants. He was instrumental in developing a tenant representation business that won the respect of his peers in the real estate world.

After receiving life-threatening injuries during a robbery in his home in the late 1970s, Ackerman was inspired to found Ackerman Security Systems Inc. He felt that everyone deserved to feel secure in his or her own home. After great success regionally, the company was sold in 2015 to a Canadian investment firm, Imperial Capital Group, and continues to grow nationwide under the Ackerman moniker as a trusted name in providing security.

Ackerman’s impact on the Atlanta community went well beyond his business interactions. He was the founder of REAP Atlanta — Real Estate Apprenticeship for African Americans. He served on the board of directors of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, on the national board of governors for American Jewish Committee, as the chairman of the board and an advisory board member for Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum, on the board of trustees of Clark Atlanta University, on the advisory board of the University of North Carolina, on the board of trustees of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, and on the board of directors of American ORT. He was a founder and member of the board of directors of Temple Sinai.

He received numerous awards for his contributions to the community.

In addition to Ackerman’s local affiliations, he was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to serve on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum board of trustees from 1990 to 1994. His vision was at the forefront of the final concept, design and building of the national memorial to Holocaust survivors in Washington, D.C.

A renaissance man at the heart of it, he was a voracious reader, an art enthusiast, a marathon runner and an adventure traveler who sought to immerse himself in other cultures whenever given the opportunity. In the 1970s, Ackerman secured permission to drive for weeks through much of the old Soviet Union at a time when the Cold War with the United States stifled all but the barest of diplomatic interchange. In 1981, he ventured out with two friends on a three-month odyssey that took him across the length and breadth of the People’s Republic of China just five years after the country opened its doors to the outside world, prompted by President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. From Beijing, the journey jumped to Bombay, India, (now Mumbai) and a 5,000-mile drive north into the Vale of Kashmir and over the highest road in the world into the barely known Himalayan region of Zanskar, part of the lore of Shangri-La. In support of the noted adventurer Ned Gillette, Ackerman helped break-in the one-of-a-kind “Red Tomato” rowboat along 300 miles of shoreline at the far southern tip of Chile. From Cape Horn, Gillette and three others rowed the craft 600 miles to Antarctica in 13 days across the most treacherous seas on the planet.

Charlie Ackerman was loved by so many friends and family near and far, who would describe him as unique, accomplished, a man of integrity, a remarkable human being, trustworthy, generous, dynamic and one of a kind. His legacy will live on through his work and philanthropy, as well as the time he gave to help so many people professionally and personally during his life.

The family expresses heartfelt gratitude and acknowledgment for the caregivers of the Caring Approach, Felicia London, Em Turong, Simon Sears, Ana Arivadera and Weinstein Hospice, along with extended family and friends, whose care and attentiveness kept his spirit alive even when his physical capabilities were diminished.

Sign the online guestbook at In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Mass General Hospital Parkinson’s Research Fund in Memory of Charles S. Ackerman, MGH Development Office, 125 Nashua St., Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114. A memorial service will be held Sunday, Oct. 1, at 1 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 5645 Dupree Drive, Sandy Springs, with a reception in the Charles S. Ackerman Social Hall to follow. Arrangements by Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care, 770-451-4999.

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