Judge Russell to be laid to rest Wednesday

Judge Dan M. Russell, Jr
Judge Dan M. Russell, Jr

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Judge Dan M. Russell, Jr will be laid to rest Wednesday in Gulfport. Russell passed away peacefully on Saturday, April 16, 2011. He was 98.

Visitation will be held Wednesday from 9am until 11am at the First United Methodist Church in Downtown Gulfport. The funeral will follow at 11am at the church. Burial will take place at Floral Hills Memorial Gardens.

Memorials may be made to the First Baptist Church of Bay St. Louis or the First Baptist Church of Gulfport.

Judge Russell was a native of Magee, MS, born on March 15, 1913, to Dan M. Russell, Sr., and Beulah Watkins Russell. After also living in Oxford and Gulfport as a youth, he later moved as an adult to Bay St. Louis, MS to practice law. He met and married the former Dorothy Tudury, and raised their three children namely: Ronald T. Russell, Dorothy Dale James, both of Gulfport, and Richard Brian Russell of Los Angeles, CA. His grandchildren are Michael Ryan James, Brandon Christopher Russell, Kimberly Nicole Russell, and he has a great grandchild, Layla Rose Barnes.

Judge Russell attended Gulfport High School where he was the editor of the "Tiger's Claw", the Gulfport High School Newspaper, and he was a member of the Big Eight Debating Team and Honor Society. He graduated from Gulfport High School on May 31, 1931.

Thereafter, he attended the University of Mississippi and received a B.A. degree on June 3, 1935. At "Ole Miss", he was a member of ODK honorary fraternity, Tau Kappa Alpha honorary debating fraternity, Scribblers honorary fraternity, Kappa Sigma Social fraternity, of which he was "Grand Master" in 1935, and "Man of the Year" in 2001. He was one of four members of the "Hall of Fame" in 1936, Editor of the "Mississippian" College newspaper 1935-1936, President of "College Newspapers" in 16 Southeastern states, and "Who's Who" in American Colleges 1935-1936. Dan Russell received a Doctor of Laws degree on May 31, 1937 from the University of Mississippi School of Law. He went on to serve in World War II in Naval Intelligence from October 13, 1941 to October 8, 1945 as Lieutenant Commander.

Dan M. Russell, Jr., was admitted to practice before the Mississippi and federal courts, as well as those of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court. He was engaged in practice of law in the firm of Russell and Favre, a partnership of Dan M. Russell, Jr., and Sam L. Favre, Jr., from 1952 – 1965.

On October 2, 1965, he was appointed U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi by President L.B. Johnson, and served as Chief Judge from June 23, 1971 until October 25, 1983. Since 1983, he continued to serve in senior status until his death.

Judge Russell was a member of the First Baptist Church of Bay St. Louis, MS, from 1939 until the time of his death. He was a lifetime deacon, a teacher of men's bible class over 15 years, and had served in numerous other capacities. He also worshiped frequently at the First Baptist Church of Gulfport as he lived nearby for many years.

Judge Russell described his role in life as one of a "witnesses to change" as evidenced in a book written about him. As a federal judge during Civil Rights days, enduring numerous threats on his life, he tried important civil and criminal cases in Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama, including forty-eight "school" integration cases in Mississippi; he was one of three federal judges who reapportioned the Mississippi Legislature three times in thirteen years; and he redistricted numerous counties, with their respective Boards of Supervisors, as well as many municipalities. He tried cases including the Ku Klux Klan "Dahmer" case, Charles Evers' case, the Rev. Charles J. Jessup's case, and numerous bank robberies, letter bombing cases, and drug cases. Many of his cases, not named here, set legal precedence, such as in the area of property law as regarded Horn Island, Turkey Creek, Cat Island, and Jones Park in Gulfport, as well as tax, products liability, and ERISA law. He loved the careful consideration of the issues in all of them.

During the 42 or more years on the federal bench, Judge Russell had a great fondness and admiration for the naturalization process. He took great pride in having naturalized thousands of qualifying immigrants from almost every country in the world, and often commented on the happy tear filled faces he observed when giving the candidates the Oath of Allegiance and leading them in the pledge to the United States Flag, making them legal citizens.

To recognize his more recent accomplishments would include:

  • On May 1, 2000, Judge Russell was recognized in the United States Senate, Vol. 146 of the Proceedings and Debates of the 106th Congress, Second Session commended Judge Russell for his many years of service on the bench.
  • On November 14, 2003, the U.S. General Services Administration dedicated the new $60 million U.S. Courthouse in Gulfport, Mississippi, and presented to the public said structure which bears the name of "Dan M. Russell, Jr. U.S. Courthouse" in his honor.
  • Fall 2004, a resolution was passed by the City of Gulfport, Mississippi, recognizing Judge Russell's many contributions to the community and the City of Gulfport, and naming the street in front of the "Dan M. Russell, Jr. U.S. Courthouse" in his honor.
  • On April 1, 2005, the Mississippi State Legislature, in House Concurrent Resolution No. 113, the Senate concurring therein, passed a resolution commending the distinguished career and accomplishments of the Hon. Dan M. Russell, Jr.

Judge Russell was also affiliated with numerous clubs and organizations which included:

  • Honorary member of "Dan M. Russell, Jr., W. Joel Blass, Harry G. Walker" chapter of the American Inns of Court"
  • Honorary member – Bay St. Louis Rotary Club
  • Honorary member – Gulfport Rotary Club
  • Honored as a Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary Foundation of Rotary International
  • Member of American Legion Post 139, Bay St. Louis, MS
  • Awarded by Gulfport Rotary Club in January 2001 the "Founder's Day Award"
  • WLOX "Person of the Week"
  • 2007 American Heart Association Honoree

He was also awarded recognition for his literary accomplishments:

  • 18 page story in New Yorker Magazine – April 1999
  • Special Mention in Reader's Digest – September 1989
  • "Twenty Questions with Judge Dan M. Russell, Jr." – Mississippi Coast Magazine, January 1992

  • Portrait "Hanging" and commendation in James O. Eastland Federal Building, Jackson, MS – 1990
  • Portrait "Hanging" and commendation at Hancock County Courthouse, Bay St. Louis, MS – May 2000
  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia Award – 2000
  • Complimentary editorials in The Sun Herald, The Clarion Ledger, Hattiesburg American, Times Picayune, The Sea Coast Echo, and The Meridian Star