Richard B. Russell Sr. (1861-1938)
Richard B. Russell Sr. served Georgia as a state legislator and appeals court justice before being elected chief
Richard Brevard Russell Sr. was born in Marietta on April 27, 1861, to Rebecca Harriette Brumby and William John Russell. His father was a prosperous middle-class textile manufacturer who lost all of his possessions in the Civil War (1861-65). The eldest of six children, Russell grew up determined to reclaim the family's prominence by serving his state in political office. Russell graduated from the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens in 1879, finishing fourth in his class. The following year he graduated from law school at UGA.
In 1882 he was elected to the Georgia General Assembly and at twenty-one was its youngest member. He served three terms in the state legislature, during which time he made education his priority.
In 1883 Russell married Barnesville native Marie Louise Tyler, who died in 1886 during a third stillbirth.
In 1898 Russell was elected superior court judge of the Western Circuit. Reelected in 1902, he resigned in 1906 to run for governor but was defeated in the primary by Hoke Smith. Later that year he allowed friends to put his name on the general election ballot for the new Court of Appeals of Georgia. Although he did not campaign for this post, he received the most votes of the sixteen candidates. Russell served on the court from 1907 to 1916 and became chief judge in 1913.
In 1922 Russell ran for chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court against incumbent William Fish and was elected. In 1926 he campaigned unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against Walter F. George. He returned to the supreme court, where he served until his death on December 3, 1938. Russell remains the only person to have served on both the Georgia Court of Appeals and the state's
While many of Russell's children sought careers in education, medicine, and the ministry, two of his sons followed their father into civil service. Richard B. Russell Jr. became Georgia's governor in 1931 and a U.S. senator in 1933. The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at the University of Georgia is named in his honor. In 1940 U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Robert Lee Russell to the federal court of the Northern District of Georgia. He was a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals at the time of his death in 1955.
Ina Dillard Russell, Roots and Ever Green: The Selected Letters of Ina Dillard Russell, ed. Sally Russell (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999).
Sally Russell, A Heart for Any Fate: The Biography of Richard Brevard Russell Sr. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2004).
Sally Russell, Breslau, Ontario, Canada
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.