A Man of Many Names - Saying Goodbye to Mr. James (Jim/Rip) W. Russell III, Colonel, USAF
By The Judge Advocate General's Corps, AFLOA/AFJAGS / Published March 19, 2013
Washington D.C. --
On March 8, 2013, more than 250 friends, family, and colleagues packed into the Joint Base Andrews Chapel to celebrate Mr. James W. Russell III. As those in attendance learned, he was known by many names - but regardless of which name you knew him by, he was a true friend to all.
Officially, he's James W. Russell III, the son of an Air Force Colonel and WWII POW. He attended Texas A&M where he was a member of the famed Corps of Cadets. He had a love for all things Aggie, and to his great joy was rewarded for his loyalty by personally witnessing his Aggies, led by the eventual Heisman trophy winning quarterback, defeat the defending national champion and previously undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide this past college football season. He was scheduled to attend this past weekend's SEC Women's Basketball Championship tournament where his Lady Aggies would be crowned champions. While he was not able to be there in person, it is safe to say he was smiling down during their championship run (particularly since they beat Kentucky). The airline industry will surely be missing James W. Russell III's frequent trips to Aggie sporting events nationwide.
Professionally and to many friends, he was well known as Jim. As Colonel Ken Theurer pointed out at Mr. Russell's memorial service, Jim Russell was one part "cranky old geezer" and one part "soft fuzzy guy," both qualities that endeared him to all of us. The man whose office always seemed to resemble a paper jungle, yet from which he could always retrieve whatever it was you thought you needed from the organized chaos...but you had better not try to find it yourself. He had many "fuzzy friends" in the advocacy community who helped our JAG Corps integrate the best possible victims' services into our programs. He was the father of the Air Force JAG Corps' victim support programs...programs he cared for very deeply.
To those he served with for 30 years on active duty, he was known as Colonel Russell. The man who began his career in literally the lowest possible place you can get in the Air Force: the bottom of a missile silo, quickly launched into the law and the JAG Corps...something he wanted to be a part of...but he became so much more than just another part. As Major General Moorman stated, "he was so much a part of the JAG Corps it's unimaginable to think of it without him." He served all over the world, taking care of people, helping to solve complex issues and winning friends and admirers everywhere he went.
For the last 12 years, many in the JAG Corps have known him as Mr. Russell, AFLOA's Associate Chief of Military Justice, the Air Force's military justice expert. He was a mentor to so very many JAG Corps members. He taught nearly every JASOC, Gateway, SJAC, Keystone, TDAC and ATAC course (plus many others)...you couldn't miss him: the tall, bearded man in his signature brown leather bomber jacket. The man you could call with a question and in return receive much more than just the answer, you'd get guidance on what it was you didn't even realize you were missing. He was also the guy whose love for a good meal (or even Whataburger & chicken fried steak) was well known, and if you had the fortunate opportunity to join him, he'd occasionally pick up the tab.
For those who knew him the longest, he was fondly referred to as Rip. A moniker given to him as a young boy to help tell the difference between father and son. It was also the name his fellow Aggies knew him by. Rip, the guy who lived life to the fullest...Rip, the guy who had the knack to find a measure of fun in everything...no matter the situation. And he only knew one way to approach everything he did..."all in, all the time," according to one of his oldest friends. Simply put, Rip loved life, its challenges and its rewards.
To Vicki, his wife of close to 40 years, he was simply "Russell" - the other half of their very special team. The man whose love for cats meant always having several roaming their home. The man who took leave to be her caregiver while she recovered from a medical procedure. The man whose heart and willingness to help others knew no bounds.
No matter if you knew him as James, Jim, Colonel, Mr. Russell, Rip or just Russell, he made a positive, profound difference in your life - even in the lives of those who never had the honor of meeting him. His impact and influence permeates not just our JAG Corps, but the Air Force and beyond...when you give more of yourself than you receive, you guarantee one thing: your legacy will last forever. Godspeed good friend. You will be dearly missed.