Civil rights-era judge in Mississippi dies at 98

Published 2:16 am Sunday, April 17, 2011

U.S. District Judge Dan M. Russell Jr., who played a critical role in legal fights of the civil rights era in Mississippi, died Saturday. He was 98.

Russell died at his home on Saturday of natural causes, said Jason Green, a funeral director at the Riemann Family Funeral Homes and a friend of the judge.

“He was a true Southern gentleman,” Green said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Russell was appointed to the bench by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 and served as the chief judge between 1971 and 1982 in the Southern District of Mississippi. He later served as a senior judge until his death.

Russell was involved in school desegregation cases in Mississippi and cases involving Charles Evers, the Ku Klux Klan and the Rev. Charles J. Jessup, according to an obituary provided by Riemann and prepared by Russell.  

The judge was born in Magee, Miss., on March 15, 1913. He graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1935 and obtained a law degree from Ole Miss in 1937.

During World War II, he served with Naval Intelligence, reaching the rank of lieutenant commander. After the war, he opened a private law practice. He married and had three children.

In the paper prepared for the Riemann funeral home, Russell described himself as a witness to change in Mississippi. As a federal judge during the 1960s, he wrote that he received death threats because of his work on civil rights cases.

The federal courthouse in Gulfport bears his name.

Funeral arrangements are pending.