Atlanta, GA,
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Harold Shepherd Builds a Legacy

Friends and family celebrate the naming of a portion of Atlanta's most well-known road in honor of Shepherd Center's co-founder.

In Georgia, many roads lead to Shepherd Center co-founder Harold Shepherd – literally and figuratively. So, it’s only appropriate that just before his 90th birthday in 2018, the Georgia General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution to designate a section of Peachtree Road in his honor. In July, the portion of Peachtree Road from Peachtree Battle Avenue to Brookwood Station – the very same slice of road that is home to Shepherd Center – was honorarily designated J. Harold Shepherd Parkway. 

Family and friends, including Gov. Nathan Deal, Rep. Marie Metze, Rep. Beth Beskin, Rep. Deborah Silcox, Rep. Patty Bentley, Sen. Gail Davenport and Russell McMurry, GDOT Commissioner, among others gathered to honor Shepherd Center co-founder Harold Shepherd and to celebrate the road naming at Shepherd Center on July 31, 2018. 

A native of Atlanta, Harold grew up as the youngest of six siblings. Family was always central to Harold – in business and life. As young men, Harold and his brothers started Shepherd Construction Company. Over the past six decades, Harold and his family members oversaw construction of hundreds of miles of interstate highways in Georgia and several surrounding states, as well as thousands of miles of city and county streets. The companies provided and improved transportation access for millions of Georgians and travelers.

It was once said that no one knew more about an asphalt plant in the state of Georgia than Harold Shepherd. Harold started paving operations in 1949 and managed 15 asphalt plants across Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. He holds a patent on the rumble roller machine, which marks the pavement edge on roads, and helped develop two asphalt terminals, which store liquid asphalt.

Construction wasn’t Harold’s only family endeavor. Along with his wife, Alana Shepherd, their son, James, and David F. Apple, Jr., M.D., Harold founded Shepherd Center in 1975. The idea for the Center formed after James sustained a spinal cord injury in a bodysurfing accident. For James’ initial recovery, the family had to seek treatment far from Atlanta because there was a lack of rehabilitation care options in the Southeast. Frustrated, but determined, the Shepherds devoted themselves to creating a rehabilitation center for people with spinal cord injuries closer to home and to help others in the region. Harold’s work in the business world proved to be quite instrumental in Shepherd Center’s launch.

“His family and business connections played a huge role in starting Shepherd Center and in saving my dad’s life,” says Jamie Shepherd, Harold’s grandson and son of James. Jamie serves as director of community services and risk management at Shepherd Center. “Without those connections and his relationships, Shepherd Center might not be here.”

A natural storyteller and somewhat of an unofficial Shepherd Center historian, Harold was a founding board member at Shepherd Center and still came to Shepherd almost every day before his passing on December 10, 2018. He was an active member of the investment committee, and he was involved in raising funds and advising the strategic direction of the hospital.

“He wanted to be here, talk to people, to be around the hospital and watch as it grows,” says Julie Shepherd, Harold’s granddaughter, who is a case manager at Shepherd Center. “He often talked about how proud he was of Shepherd Center. His construction career was rewarding in one way, but he was even prouder of what they did here (at the hospital) and the lives they’ve changed.”

Harold was recognized with several awards for service and dedication – including the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation’s Distinguished Public Service Award, the American College of Physicians’ Edward R. Loveland Memorial Award for a Distinguished Contribution in the Health Field, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Healthcare Heroes Award, Outstanding Service to Georgia’s Handicapped Citizens Award, Hagar & Jay’s Award from Delta Air Lines for servant leadership, the Tiffany Blue Angel Award and the Christopher Reeve Spirit of Courage Award. He also received an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Georgia in 2011. But, you won’t hear him boasting.

“He liked being behind the scenes,” Jamie says. “He’s wasn't interested in getting credit. He was more interested in making friends, learning about people and demonstrating that he could relate to them having been through tragedy.”

Though what started as a six-bed rehabilitation unit is now a world-renowned, 152-bed research and rehabilitation facility spread across three campuses, Harold’s family members say his greatest influence was on the feeling people get while at Shepherd Center.

“They started all of the culture,” Julie says of her grandparents. “They always wanted it to be like a big family. He would do anything for a friend, and that shines through in the culture here.”


One of the best ways to ensure that Shepherd Center will be able to serve patients and families yet to come is through legacy planning. Some of the Center’s most impactful gifts have come from bequests in wills and other estate planning vehicles that named the Shepherd Center Foundation as a beneficiary. These gifts not only support the programs and services that make Shepherd Center so special, they also make a profound statement about your values to family and community. Those who have helped to build Shepherd Center’s road into the future through estate planning are recognized as members of the J. Harold Shepherd Bridge Builders Society.

Written by Kerry Ludlam

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.