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Air Atlanta founder and entrepreneur Michael Hollis, 58, passes away

By Maria Saporta

Multi-faceted Atlanta entrepreneur Michael R. Hollis passed away Monday evening after suffering from a prolonged illness.

Hollis, 58, was a lawyer by training with a law degree from the University of Virginia. It was while he was at UVA that he was the first African-American to be elected the national president of the 30,000-member student division of the American Bar Association, the largest student organization in the world, according to an Atlanta Weekly profile written about Hollis in 1985.

Air Atlanta's logo

In February 1984, Hollis launched Air Atlanta — a luxury airline that was the first in the nation to be controlled by an African-American. At the time, Hollis was only 27 years old. Air Atlanta filed for bankruptcy in April 1987.

That was only one of several careers.

After Air Atlanta, Hollis established Hollis Communications along with Atlanta builder H.J. Russell, and the two owned a radio station that was later sold to Cox Enterprises.

Michael Hollis during the time he was running Air Atlanta

In the early 1990s, Hollis launched and sold Hanover Credit Co. A few years later he established the Blue Sky Petroleum Co. with his older brother — the late James B. Arnold. They owned dozens of convenience and petroleum retail stores in metro Atlanta.

Then in 2003, Hollis and another brother— Julius Hollis — formed a partnership with JP Morgan Chase — Nevis Securities

Hollis was appointed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2005 to be executive director of the U.S. Virgin Islands Housing Authority, which provided housing for nearly 10 percent of the island’s residents.

Michael Hollis' board photo from the Atlanta-Fulton County Hospital Authority's website

Hollis also became involved in the community, serving on the board of the Atlanta-Fulton County Hospital Authority (Grady Hospital) from 2005 to this year. He also served on the boards of Emory University and Atlanta University.

The family will hold a memorial service for Hollis on Monday, June 25 at 10:30 a.m. at Ebenezer Baptist Church. An all-star cast of Atlanta leaders are expected to share their thoughts at the service — including former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, current Mayor Kasim Reed, Brooke Jackson Edmonds, Clayton Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, Nancy Boxill, Roy Keith, Daniel Kolber, Pamela Stephenson, among others.

Hollis is survived by his wife, Dena; his sisters — Virginia Hollis, Joan Hollis Mitchell; his brothers — Julius and Flem Hollis; as well as his cousin Victor Thomas and nieces and nephews.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Aida Perez Flamm June 20, 2012 9:14 am

    Very Sad, he was a role model & a good citizen of Atlanta
    Aida FlammReport

  2. maegentry June 20, 2012 11:55 am

    So sorry to learn of Michael Hollis’ passing. My deepest condolences to his family.Report

  3. Pat Upshaw Monteith June 20, 2012 3:00 pm

    I will miss you dearly.  The things I will mss the most are your laughter, love of life, good wines and good food. Peace out.
    Pat Upshaw-MonteithReport

  4. Slivy June 22, 2012 12:01 pm

    Goodbye, my Friend. May you rest in Peace.


  5. Bobbie June 26, 2012 10:57 am

    He “passed away”?   Do you mean he died?
    He was multi-faceted?  Strange in a human being.  Multi-talented perhaps?Report

  6. deerobin August 28, 2012 10:07 pm

    I just found out about Mr. Hollis’s passing.  I worked for him at Air Atlanta.  He was just a baby when he started that airline.  A brilliant man!  May his soul rest in peace.Report


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