Friends, Colleagues Honor Long Time Judge Russell

Judge Dan Russell is thrilled to reach two milestones.

"It's the happiest day of my life that I can make 90 years old and get to move into a building this wonderful."

That building is the new federal courthouse in Gulfport that bears the judge's name. It sits in front of his family's old home site and next to what used to be Gulfport High. The judge graduated from there 72 years ago.

"That's the reason it's a historical building' cause they finally got me outta there," he jokes.

Judge Russell is known for his quick wit and love of a good joke. But his 38 years on the federal bench have required serious rulings.

He's presided over issues involving everything from Ku Klux Klansmen, school desegregation and legislative reapportionment. Some of the cases were so volatile that U.S. Marshals were assigned to guard him.

"We had to be guarded cause of all the threats we got and some of 'em were serious. If we didn't get a threatening' letter at least once a week we felt slighted there."

Judge Russell had no reason to feel slighted on this day. Arriving at a luncheon in his honor, friends and colleagues couldn't wait to shake his hand and give him a hug. Friends couldn't wait to brag on the judge.

"He has stories to tell about his commitment to the community and to the law. It's fantastic that we're having this event today honoring him," Architect Frank Genzar said.

"He's just a fine man, he's meant so much to the community, so much to the justice system, wonderful man." Jo Mitchell said.