FRED RUSSELL 1906-2003

Fred McFerrin Russell died Sunday, January 26, 2003 at his home after a brief illness. A native Nashvillian, he was born Aug. 27, 1906, the younger son of Mabel Lee McFerrin and John E. Russell. Soon after his birth, his family moved to Wartrace, Tenn., then returned to Nashville in 1920. He was educated at Duncan Preparatory School and Vanderbilt University Law School, where he was a member of the Class of 1927, Kappa Sigma fraternity and the Vanderbilt baseball team. After serving in the legal department of Real Estate Title Co., he joined the Nashville Banner in 1929, assigned to the police beat, then to sports, covering Vanderbilt football. He was named Sports Editor in 1930, vice-president in 1955, sports director in 1969, through the years continuing his daily column, Sideline Sidelights. He at one time hosted a nightly WSM radio show broadcasting scores and interviewing sports figures. In 1981 he became sports writer emeritus, still writing a column. He continued going to the office daily until the Banner was sold in 1998.

He was married in 1933 to the former Katherine Wyche Early, who died in 1996.

In 1936 he received the National Headliners Club Award for scooping interviews with the jailed fugitive and kidnapper of Alice Speed Stoll of Louisville. He football predictions, “Pigskin Preview,” ran annual in the Saturday Evening Post from 1949 to 1962. From 1964-1991 he was chairman of the National Football Hall of Fame Honors Court. In 1995 he received the first Grantland Rice Memorial Award from the Sportsmanship Brotherhood in New York for an “outstanding example of sports reporting in the Rice tradition.”

He was a President of the Football Writers Association of America, received the National Football Foundation’s Distinguished American Award, the Kappa Sigma National Man of the Year, Red Smith Award from the Associated Press Sports Editors, Heisman Special Service Award, and the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Distinguished American Award. He received the Turf Writer’s award for distinguished race writing in 1983, the same year he covered his 50th consecutive Kentucky Derby. The Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Scholarship at Vanderbilt University is given yearly to an entering freshman that plans a career in sports journalism.

He has written for numerous national publications and is the author of four books about sports, including Bury Me in an Old Press Box, and the co-author of two others.

He was a 33rd degree Mason, a member of the Zodiac and the Coffee House clubs, Belle Meade Country Club, and Belle Meade Lawn Bowling Association. He was a member of West End Methodist Church.

Mr. Russell was a pitcher on the 1927 Vanderbilt baseball team. The University has formally named both its football and baseball press boxes in his honor.

Memorial services will be a 2 p.m. Wednesday at West End United Methodist Church with the Rev. Tom Laney and Rev. Ewart Watts officiating. Visitation will follow. Family graveside services will be at 11 a.m. at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Grandchildren will serve as pallbearers.

He is survived by four daughters, Carolyn Russell, Ellen Sadler and Kay Beasley, all of Nashville, and Lee Brown of Columbia, Tenn.; sons-in-law Robert Sadler and Earl Beasley, Jr., and eleven grandchildren.


Vanderbilt Athletic Department
2601 Jess Neely Drive
Nashville, TN 37212
615-322-GOLD (4653)