John W. Russell was born March 23, 1897, at Alaska, Indiana, passed from this life on December 3, 1970, at Roosevelt County General Hospital after being quite feeble for many months.  He was married to Miss Mittie Lee Kite, on November 11, 1906, in Altus, Oklahoma, and in February of 1907 they came to homestead a farm in New Mexico. Mrs. Russell preceded Mr. John just two years and one day in. death, which came just a few years after their retirement from the farm near Floyd.

Seven children were born to this union with two having preceded Mr. and Mrs. Russell in death. Harold, Leo(died in 1929), Ezra,  John W.. Jr.,  (died in 1941), Ruth, Wiley and Travis. John Jr' s son Bob grew up in the home after the deaths of his parents, and Bob's brothers Bill and Butch lived there the latter years of their high school. In addition, several other boys enjoyed the hospitality of the home for a time.


The life of a pioneer was hard and the 1910-1911 year saw the family back in Oklahoma where Mr. Russell taught all grades in Swanson. With a little grubstake they were back in New Mexico the following year, but hard times and a new found love for teaching found the years from 1912 through 1922 spent in the classrooms of Upton, Ingram, Plainview, Elida, Portales, Benson and Floyd. He taught Latin and Mathematics in the high school at Floyd the last two of those years. Then in 1922 he began a 36 year term on the Roosevelt County Board of Education, which is thought to be the longest such service in the country. This was capped by the fact that he served as its president almost all of those years. His work in the field of education and his continuing interest in it was recognized by the profession and in 1965 he was elected to the Eastern District Hall of Fame for Educators.


It was while he was a member of the Roosevelt County School Board that the Floyd Consolidated Schools undertook transportation of its children to school by bus, and a court test of the use of taxpayer's money for that purpose was taken to the New Mexico Supreme Court with a favorable verdict forthcoming.


He was one of the early farmers who took up dairying and had one of the first Grade-A Dairy Farms. His interests were wide and he was a community man of top ranking. He was known as Mr. Republican in the days when the Democratic party reigned. He was a popular chairman to preside at funct­ions of his community and county. He possessed a rare ability to keep a meeting going with all sides of the question entertained with harmony.


His children knew him as a kind and loving father whose opinions were rendered for their good. In addition to the above children named he is survived by a sister; Josie Crittenden, of Pomona, California; by 17 grandchildren, 43 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great-grandchildren as well as a host of nephews, nieces and friends to mourn his passing: His. five surviving children were at his side at the time of death as was  nephew Paul Russell of Santa Fe, who had been much in the home over the years. An obituary can but briefly ;give the history of one whose tenure on this earth was filled to the brim with the good life. His love for his fellowmen knew no bounds.


His obituary has intimated that his heart and his home were open. It was! Truly, the latchstring; of his home was on the outside for all to reach, and truly the latchstring of his heart was there for all. to know and feel his warmth and his genuine concern.


The write-up in the Portales paper said he was a philosopher. He was! He must surely have been acquainted with many of the writers of history on the subject. To me - he had an advantage over the writers. He studied them all and created his own, and then lived by it every day of his life. He quoted Shakespeare and Yeats, and Longfellow, and. Bryant and Kipling. A favorite poem wan Thanatopsis. He knew the Bible as few laymen are privileged to know it. He lived it daily. For many years I thought he belonged to my Methodist Church at Floyd in those days of Union Church services. He would kid the Baptists for their strictness and tell that Mother was a humanist and how strict she was with him and the boys. BUT - then he would observe that she had surely raised him a nice family and he and those boys were much indebted for her wisdom and her firm hand on the household;


I came to find that he belonged to no denomination, and he used the excuse that there was no place for differences over the small issues. He would say, and I quote - "I belong to the Big Church." He had a favorite text; from which he would preach you a variety of sermons, "Keep the Master in the Boat."


He was a mason, and secretary Ed Fenton will tell you that he is indebted for new and refreshing interpretations Mr. John gave of the tenets and dogma of the fraternity. HE WAS THAT WAY! He was not satis­fied to repeat the phrases that others repeated. He must chew it and digest it, and turn it over and look at it under the magnifying glass of logic and reason.


I have wished that I could have been a few years younger and sat in his Sunday school. classes for the youth of Floyd high School. He had a reputation for being unexcelled. 


We have been told of his being elected to the Hall of Fame for Educ­ators in 1965. Foy Jones (who sponsored him) loaned me last evening the transcripts of those who wrote. 1etters of recommendation for him. Iurlene Morrison wrote for the eighth graders of Portales in 1913 .as follows: "We are better citizens for having known him through the years." A. E. Hunt, who served under him as County School superintendent four different terms said: "John  was a follower, a leader and a counselor. He was always impatient for progress, but could be patient tactfully and understandingly with those who questioned his efforts to improve the schools he dearly loved." Floyd 1. Golden said" "Mr. Russell is one of the finest, loyal, public-spirited, civic-minded, citizens that I have known anywhere.” And many, many others have said such things as - "Truly a pioneer in education," "keenly interested in. helping children," "a privilege to have had Mr. Russell as a teacher in my school days," and "he had the deepest imprint on the educational philosophy of the schools of this area than any other."


I am told that a few nights before his passing, a person passing down the hall found all the nurses congregated around his bedside. Of course they were being enthralled by his words. I can see them in my mind's eye - so can you, and I can imagine some of the words he used and the inspiration that was theirs. This illustrates the magnetism that was his!


I offer a personal experience, when back in those days when I was a young superintendent I went to him with a problem. We had a boy in school who seemed incorrigible. Talking to -- whipping -- all manners of' approach seemed to fail all. of us. Mr. John said - "Don't ever let a boy know that you have given up on him. You may be at your rope's end - but should he feel your despair, he will despair of himself. There is a way: remember that there is someone just around the corner that can handle him and handle him easily." I learned a great lesson that afternoon and I have come back to it and used it and passed it along to others many, many times.


To you children and down to the great-great-grandchildren, and to all the relatives and friends - I would remind you that we don't really mourn his passing. rather, we mourn for ourselves. We will miss him - and we surely should! But we will remember the good. We will remember his counsel. We will remember his example. We will remember his generosity and his dedication - and we  will remind ourselves that he has gone on to catch up with Mother, for he would have planned it no other way. This then; he has left us - a clear, well-marked path by which we too may serve God and man.


I think one of the finest of eulogies to .our beloved were the words of nephew Paul. Russell who said to some of his cousins at the time of Mr. John's passing;  "he will never be gone." And that, friends and loved ones, is a great, great truth.




Dec. 7, .I970

Dear Ezra:

It was great privilege to be asked to have a part in the memorial service for your dad. He seemed always so big to me - both in stature and in mind. I suppose when I try to make one word fit him it would be "statesmanship." He always put principle above all else.


I was so very fortunate to have come to Floyd. You people took me in and trained me after your pattern of life and I have always treasured those thirteen years.


Overall, I suppose that our service was too long. But I don't know what could have been left out for either Homer or myself. Your dad was such a wide person.


Ed note: correction to above: J W Russell, referred to above as John jr.. was in fact named J W Russell, not John Jr.  John Harold was given the name John, so Johnny was J W’s  nickname.   Mr. John had nicknames for all the kids.  Travis, adopted about 1950, was “Buttermilk”.  Wiley was “Geronimo” or “Jiggs”.  Ruth was “Fuzzybunch.”.  I never earned a name – he wondered how it was that he learned more from me than he did from all the others as they grew up.