By William Moore
TUPELO – Frank Russell, who served as a First Circuit Court Judge for 17 years, died Saturday after an extended illness.
“As a person, he was just like a brother to me. He would do anything for you,” said former circuit court judge Barry Ford. “As a judge, they didn’t come any better.
“He called it like he saw it. He didn’t treat anybody different from anyone else – and I always admired him for that.”
According to McNeece-Morris Funeral Home, Russell was 72 when he passed away March 4 at the North Mississippi Medical Center.
After graduating from high school, Russell attended Wake Forest University for two years before returning home and getting a bachelors degree from Mississippi State in 1966. Four years later, he graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law. He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar Association in June 1970.
He was the prosecuting attorney for Itawamba County from 1972-1976. He was first elected a circuit court judge in 1988 and was re-elected three more times.
“He was one of the best judges, either state or federal, that I have ever met,” said Tupelo attorney Jim Waide, who both argued cases before Russell and represented the judge in a misconduct hearing. “He had a real caring for the people and related to common people. It was a shame when he retired early.”
Following his re-election in 2000, Russell retired in December 2001. Then-governor Ronnie Musgrove appointed Paul Funderburk to serve out the remainder of Russell’s unexpired term.
During his time on the bench, Russell presided over everything from simple misdemeanors to capital murder cases. He was publicly reprimanded by the state supreme court in May 1997 for the release of four felons.
“That was a case of Frank trying to help a man suffering from cancer at (the Mississippi State Penitentiary at) Parchman,” Waide said.
The funeral arrangements are still incomplete and will be announced later by McNeece-Morris Funeral Home.