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 Foundations
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
Committees Distinguished American Award. He received
the Turf Writers 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
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.