November 19, 1923 ~ September 4, 2008

Born in: Cabot, AR,
Resided in: Candler, NC

John William Russell, Jr., 84, of 124 Liberty Rd., Candler died Thursday, September 4, 2008 at Mission Hospital following complications from a diagnostic procedure. Bill was born in Cabot, Arkansas November 19, 1923. His parents moved to Candler when he was two, and he was a resident of Candler for the rest of his life. He was a lifelong member of Francis Asbury United Methodist Church, which he supported with long service including serving as chair of the building committee. He was active at the district and conference levels of the United Methodist Church as well. Bill was graduated from Candler High School, and attended Brevard College for a year, where he met his future bride of 61 years, Marjorie Leigh Duranso. When the U.S. entered World War II, he left Brevard College and worked for the defense industry until his 19th birthday, when he entered the United States Marine Corps. He served in the South Pacific with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marines, Sixth Marine Division. He served as enlisted aide to Lt. Col. Wallace M. Greene, Jr. on Saipan. Col. Greene went on in later years to become Commandant of the Marine Corps. Bill's service continued through the island hopping campaign and the Okinawa campaign. Following WW II, Bill returned to North Carolina, where he and Marjorie married. He entered UNC-Chapel Hill on the G.I. Bill, where he was graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948 and from law school with a Juris Doctor degree in 1950. Bill Russell returned home to Candler to practice law with the law firm of Uzzell & Dumont. For the past 25 years, he has led the law firm of Russell & King, P.A. During his career, he engaged in almost every realm of the law and clearly loved the practice thereof. In 2000, the 26th District Bar Association recognized him for 50 years of continuous service to the legal community. He was subsequently elected to the North Carolina Bar Association Hall of Fame in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where all of his staff and family honored him, along with the bar. Also, Bill was honored throughout his professional career by maintaining a Av rating from Martindale-Hubbell for the majority of his years of practice, and also was named one of The Best Lawyers in America by his peers. He was known throughout the bar for his gentlemanly conduct, his true professionalism, and his ability to bring a case to mind along with the reporter in which it could be found. He achieved his highest wish, which was to practice law up to the day before his death. He was a consummate lawyer. He was a lifelong trout fisherman, beginning in 1939 on Cataloochee Creek. His love of the sport and the friends he made along the way was a joy to him. He was an engaging storyteller, and his tales of fishing and friends enlivened many a creek bank and campfire. He enjoyed fishing in North Carolina, Montana, Idaho, and on the Babine River in British Columbia. He was a founding member of the Land O' Sky chapter of Trout Unlimited, and was a conservationist years before it was fashionable. Bill was a lover of Shakespeare and the classics, a college friend of Kermit Hunter (author of Unto These Hills), a former counsel to the Cherokee Historical Association, and a lover of outdoor drama. He is survived by his wife, Marjorie Russell of Clare Bridge of Asheville: brother Walter R. Russell of Houston TX; son John W. Russell III of Candler; son Walter G. Russell of Candler and his wife Cathy; grandson John W. Russell IV of Rock Hill, SC and his wife Candie and sons Ethan and Joshua; granddaughter Jennalee Sexton of Candler and her husband Mike; grandson Zachary Russell of Brevard and his wife Promise, cousin Shirley White of Candler, and his law partner and friend of many years, Sandra M. King. A memorial service will be held to celebrate his life and accomplishments on Thursday, September 11 at 2:00 PM at Francis Asbury United Methodist Church on Asbury Rd, Candler. The family will receive friends at the church following the service. Memorials may be made to Pisgah Legal Services, 89 Montford Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801, or to Francis Asbury United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 67, Candler, NC 28715. The family would like to extend their gratitude to his outstanding medical team, who worked with him for many years to enable him to continue serving the community. He fought his heart disease to the end and lived his life as Dylan Thomas wrote, "Do not go gentle into that good night." Groce Funeral Home on Patton Avenue is assisting with the arrangements.

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  1. Russell Family-I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Mr.Russell.I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not know who the Russells were. They have been great neighbors and wonderful friends.My thoughts and prayers are with you at this sad time. May you find comfort in knowing he is no longer in pain.

  2. To the Family of Bill Russell,
    The last of the true gentlemen and a lovers of the law. I have worked with Bill for many years and have never met a more kind and gentle person. Please know that he has more respect than anyone could ever convey. He is one of a kind and I am a better person for having known him. Please accept my most heartfelt condolences and know that I am thinking of you all at this time.
    Sandie Green

  3. To: Russell Family & Sandra King

    First, my condolences on your loss. Let me also say what an honor and a privilege it was to simply work for and practice law with Mr. Russell.

    Mr. Russell was truly a member of America’s greatest generation. His story was one of devoted service and dedication to both his country and his profession. He was a shining example of all that lawyers should know and try to emulate.

    I learned of his spectacular achievements during the countless conversations I had with him both at the office and over lunch. He had a warmth and genuineness of personality, a truly deep and honorable character, an unparalleled intellect and knowledge of the law and a wisdom and perspective on life that is so very uncommon these days.

    To Ms. King I can only say that I simply cannot fathom the loss to you of your close friend, colleague of many years, and law partner. My deepest sympathy to you for your profound loss. My heart truly goes out to you. It is my sincere hope that as the days and time pass, something will come along to bring comfort to you.

    Finally on behalf of my family, Meg, Emily and I wish to say how very dearly we will all miss him.


  4. Bill’s Family, I was distressed to read about Bill in today’s paper. When I first knew him he was a young attorney in the Uzzell and Dumont firm and represented my area of Wachovia Bank along with William E. Greene. When the bank transferred me to Charlotte in 1962 I lost contact with Bill. He was an impressive guy in ability, personality and friendship. We empathize with your loss and are thinking of you. We hope in some small way it does help to know others do care. Joe Clark

  5. Walter, Marjorie, & Family
    We were so sorry to read about Bill in today’s paper. He was always a pleasant person and a true southern gentleman.
    We probably won’t be able to attend the funeral or visitation, but wanted to let you know we are sorry for your loss and that you will be in our thoughts and prayers.
    If there is anything we can do please don’t hestiate to let us know.

  6. Bill was our family lawyer, friend, and fishing partner for as long as I can remember. Although I did not get to fish with him or see him often after I graduated from high school, he left an indelible impression on me. He was always a true gentleman and the best nymph fisherman I ever watched!!! He could stand in a big hole for hours it often seemed. He, my Dad and I had many an enjoyable fishing trip in those years gone by. I tied many a black nymph for him and wished I could use them as well as he!!! He really loved his trout fishing and I am a better person for his friendship and concern for me in my early years.

  7. Bill Russell was my professional role model for over three decades. He was a perfect gentleman, a superb lawyer, and a genuine friend. Although we most often appeared on the opposite side of a case from one another, he was the kind of man who made practicing law a pleasure, not something to be dreaded. I will sorely miss him. My deepest condolences to his family and to Sandra.

  8. Kaye and I were deeply saddened to hear of Bill’s death. It was an honor to be his friend. I have never worked with anyone who was more professional and caring. When Kaye and I came back to Asheville for visits we always went by the office to see Bill and Sandra. He was one of a kind and we all will miss him very much.

  9. On behalf of the 28th Judicial District Bar, our condolences to the family and friends of the Bill Russell family.

  10. My sincere sympathy and prayers goes out to the Russell family. I will miss Bill’s ever present smile and kind words every day as we left from our individual places of work.

  11. To Mr. Russell’s family and to Sandra King,
    I enjoyed so much working with Mr. Russell on workers’ compensation cases over the last 16 years. He was always charming, polite and professional while representing his clients’ interests. He is a role model for the civil defense bar. I was lucky to have settled a case with him last month and will definitely miss him. He was a true Southern gentleman.

  12. To the family of Bill Russell and his law partner,
    I am not alone in saying how I as a lawyer appreciated Bill’s refreshing professionalism in his every dealing with me. He was a real gentleman lawyer who knew and practiced well his craft. It was an honor to be a member of this bar with him. My best wishes to you all.

  13. To the Russell family and Sandra,
    I am priviliged to have known Bill and to call him a friend. I don’t have the ability to express the depth of my respect for him as a lawyer and a person. Please accept my heartfelt condolonces.

  14. Starting in 1956 and continuing until 1966 I was privileged to work in the same law firm with Bill. I did not match his seven day a week work ethic, nor his kindly personality, but was the beneficiary of advice anytime I sought it. During the rest of my career I never met a finer gentleman both in and out of the office or court. I contend that in rating professional lawyers ‘he may not have been in a class by himself, but it sho’ don’t take long to call the roll.’ I will be grateful forever for having known him for over half a century, ten years of which were in close association. The community, and particularly the profession, are both deminished without J. William Russell.

  15. Bill was a gentleman and wonderful lawyer. The few times we were on the same side he was a tremendous asset and when he was against me he was a tenacious advocate for his client but also fair. And, most important, he was just a very good man.

  16. I did not have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Russell personally, but, after reading about his life, I feel a great void in not knowing him. Being in the legal field, I feel a connection and I wanted to wish the family peace during this time. How proud you must be of the legacy that Mr. Russell’s life has left. May God bless you all and give you the comfort in knowing that Heaven is even more blessed today.

  17. To the family of Bill Russell and Sandra King

    I was deeply saddened to hear of Bill’s passing. Quite a few years ago, when I was a much younger attorney, I had the privledge of working with Bill on several cases that I was asked to handle in the Asheville area. On some of those cases we were on opposite sides, and on others we were aligned in interest. In either case, he was an example of what our profession should be and I have met few, if any, other attorneys in my 30 years of practice who more clearly exemplifed what it meant to be a lawyer. After that I would see Bill at the NCADA meetings in Hilton Head and he always had a kind word or story. I had not seen him in a few years, but recently a young attorney in my firm asked me if I knew him, as they had a case together. I replied that I did and that Bill was one of the finest gentlemen he would ever meet. The attorney responded that he could tell that from just talking with Bill over the phone several times.

    My deepest sympathy to his family and to Sandra.

  18. Bill Russell was the exemplar of the old school lawyer. He was a fine attorney, mentor, and friend. His word was his bond. He is someone whom I always enjoyed seeing (though never often enough),whether at the courthouse, or simply on the street. He will be missed.

  19. Dear Family,
    During this time of loss, may God’s daily presence minister to your every need.
    With Deepest Sympathy,
    Otto DeBruhl

  20. John, Walter and Marjorie, I am so sorry for your loss. I truly believe Bill was a man to match these mountains. I remember the fishing trips as we camped by the river. I hope his love of these mountains will be carried on by all those he touched.
    Love, Rebecca Kirkpatrick Davis

  21. Mr. Russell was the epitome of the gracious Southern lawyer. I always looked forward to seeing him on my dockets to Asheville. My deepest sympathy to his family and to Sandra. We are all better attorneys for knowing him.

  22. Dear John, Walter and Family,

    My deepest sympathy to each of you. He was a wonderful man and left a great legacy for you. May you know God’s peace during this time.


  23. To the family of Bill Russell, and to Sandra,

    It is perhaps trite to speak of Bill as ‘a consummate professional’ and ‘a gentleman of the old school’, but he truly exemplified the very best of those terms. And he was such a splendid character–surely one of the most intriguing people I’ve ever met in the practice of law. Throughout the legal community in western North Carolina, many join you in mourning the passing of a great lawyer and a great man.

  24. All of Bills’ first cousins here in Arkansas were saddened to learn of his passing: Bernice Russell Thatcher, Martha Nell Russell Tenney, Robert O. Russell, Jr.,and Charles Edward Russell send their condolences. We wish we had known of it sooner.

  25. To: The Russell Family and Sandra

    Bill was one of the first people I met when I moved to Asheville in 1972. He was a friend, a mentor and exemplifed the true meaning of the Southern gentleman.

    I never came out of a meeting with Bill that I did not feel better than when I went in. He always had a smile and a little chuckle for every occasion.

    Regrettably, we will not be able to attend the memorial service, but wanted to let you know that we extend our deepest sympathy during this time of great loss. We will miss Bill.

  26. I never had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Russell. However, I do have the pleasure of knowing and working with his son, Walter. After reading about Mr. Russell’s outstanding character, values and work ethic, I must say his son Walter exemplifies the same fine qualities of his father. Walter, I am so sorry for your loss and will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  27. Bill was true gentleman and a pleasure to know and work with. My dealings with Bill were always marked by his courtesy, respect and willingness to be a help. He will be missed.

  28. Bill was an outstanding lawyer and a good firend. He was was always pleasant and even tempered in handling matters for his client, and even in a hostile envoirnment he was alwys calm, smiling and even handed in handling the situation.

    He was indeed a role model of the characteristics a successful lawyer should possess and a great trial lawyer.

    We shall miss him and his pleasant smile and good homor.

    Keith S. Snyder

  29. The Russell Family & Sandra,

    I was deeply saddened to learn of Bill’s death. He was a fine friend, a vigorous opponent and a consummate professional. I first met Bill when I was a Deputy Commissioner with the Industrial Commission where it was occasionally my job to review documents drafted by Bill. I was always impressed by care with which he crafted both complex documents and simple letters. Western North Carolina has lost a real Atticus Finch and he will be greatly missed.

  30. Bill Russell taught me, and every lawyer with whom he came into contact, volumes about how to practice law, and how to practice law the right way. We were all immeasurably enriched by his knowledge, his wisdom, his character, and his spirit. Our Bar has lost a giant, and our community has lost a great gentleman and citizen. My deepest condolences to the Russell family and the Russell & King Firm.

  31. I met Bill last year at a CLE in Cary, NC. We spoke of his service in the United States Marine Corps during the Second World War and Bill graciously volunteered to take part in an interview for my book.

    In the time I spent getting to know Bill, all I can say is that I learned first and foremost that he was a gentleman, an ethical lawyer above reproach and a very good man. He will be missed I am sure by all those who knew and loved him.

    My mere words can never fully convey my sympathy for your loss; however, I do hope they bring some comfort. My respect and well wishes to his family and friends. You will all be in my prayers.

    With my deepest condolences,

    Edward Phillips


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