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Born to a Jewish family, Small is the second generation of a family involved in real estate development in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. His father was a commercial developer while Albert focused on both apartment and commercial development. His son, Albert Small Jr., has followed on the family business and is involved in residential homebuilding mainly in Northern Virginia. He graduated from the University of Virginia, in chemical engineering in 1946.
Small served as a Director of Home Properties of New York Inc. from July 1999 until May 4, 2004. Along with the acquisition of properties near Washington, D.C., he and others received approximately 4,086,000 of operating partnership units in Home Properties. He is President of Southern Engineering Corporation and is a member of the Urban Land Institute, National Association of Home Builders.
He serves on the Board of Directors of the National Symphony Orchestra, National Advisory Board Music Associates of Aspen, Department of State Diplomatic Rooms Endowment Fund, James Madison Council of the Library of Congress, Tudor Place Foundation, The Life Guard of Mount Vernon, Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and the National Archives Foundation.
The University of Virginia Library, and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History have named rooms for him. He has given to Tulane University. Albert Small has a special affinity for those who died during World War II, and whose stories are "forgotten" as time passes. For the past two years, Albert Small has paid for a team of fifteen teachers and their student partners to come to Washington D.C. as part of the Project Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom This institute is affiliated with the National History Day. Students and teachers research a soldier from their home state who is buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France. The teams then travel to France and tour the D-Day battlefields, where they lay a wreath at the graveside and read a memorial to their soldier. After they return home, students produce a web page devoted to that soldier.