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Jerry Lewis Russell (1933–2003)

Jerry Lewis Russell Jr. was an author, editor of several newsletters, political and public relations advisor and consultant, political activist, and founder of the Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas. He was also nationally recognized as a leader in the preservation of state and national Civil War battlefields.

Jerry Russell Jr. was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on July 21, 1933, to Jerry Lewis Russell Sr. and Frances Marion Lieb Russell. In 1958, Russell graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and then co-edited the two-volume Who’s Who in Arkansas (1959). From 1958 to 1961, he edited The Heights Land Weekly Visitor (Little Rock). However, Russell was soon deeply involved in local politics as an astute public relations advisor and campaign consultant. Russell came up with many memorable—but often corny—jingles. Russell’s first notable campaign jingle was “Pin a rose on me, I’m for Rosamond,” for 1972 North Little Rock mayoral candidate Robert Rosamond. Rosamond won, as did seventy percent of the 250 candidates Russell backed through 2000.

Building on his growing success and considerable experience, Russell founded Grass Roots Campaigning: A Campaign Techniques Newsletter Published for the Grass Roots Level Political Campaign, a monthly newsletter, in 1979. He also held membership in the American Association of Political Consultants. In 1998, he was a consultant to the successful campaign of Republican Win Rockefeller for lieutenant governor campaign. In 2000, eight of his ten candidates won. Russell’s political philosophy of service was to work only for candidates for whom he would personally vote.

As well known as Russell was for his political work, he is best remembered for his promotion of the study of the American Civil War and as a leader in Civil War battlefield preservation. In March 1964, Russell founded and served as the first president of the Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas, followed by the national Civil War Roundtable Associates in 1968. He served as its national chairman and edited the monthly CWRT Digest newsletter.

Over the next forty years, Russell helped to establish ten Civil War roundtables in Arkansas, plus several dozen more in other states, and he often visited them as a featured speaker. In 1975, he established the annual National Congress of Civil War Round Tables, followed by the Confederate Historical Institute in 1979, for which he served as national chairman and newsletter editor. He also helped to form the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, which later became the Civil War Preservation Trust. In 1984, he founded and served as executive director of the Society of Civil War Historians.

Russell founded HERITAGEPAC in 1989, the only political action committee focused upon Civil War battlefield preservation. While he was a nationally recognized scholar of the Civil War, Russell also studied the United States’ Indian Wars and, in 1999, published a fact book on Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Additionally, he served as national chairman of the Order of the Indian Wars.

The Civil War Preservation Trust honored him with the organization’s Edwin C. Bearss Lifetime Achievement Award in April 2002. Other awards included the Frank Vandiver Award of Merit from the Houston Civil War Roundtable, the Robert E. Lee Award from the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association, the Annie Snyder Award from the Civil War Society, the first Oliver Wendell Holmes Award from the Civil War Roundtable of Greater Boston, and an award from the Brandy Station Foundation. In 1988, the Confederate Memorial Association selected him to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier in Arlington Cemetery on Confederate Memorial Day. He received the first Texas Star Award at the Texas Civil War Battlefield Preservation Conference in 1997.

Russell underwent lung surgery in December 2003 and appeared to be recovering when he died suddenly on December 5. He was survived by his wife of thirty-four years, Alice Anne Cason Russell, and four children. The UA library system purchased Russell’s 3,000-volume Civil War book collection.

For additional information:
“House Memorial Resolution: Honoring the Memory and Achievements of Jerry Lewis Russell, Junior.” House Memorial Resolution 1008, State of Arkansas, Eighty-fourth General Assembly, Second Extraordinary Session, 2003.

Jorgensen, Kathryn. “Jerry L. Russell Dies at 70; Was Leader in Battlefield Preservation.” Civil War News, January 2004. Online at http://www.civilwarnews.com/archive/articles/russell_dies.htm (accessed May 6, 2011).

Paul D. Haynie
Harding University

Last Updated 8/11/2011

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