HON. B. L. RUSSELL, mayor of Baird, ex-county judge of Callahan county and an active practitioner of law, represents one of the old families of the south. His paternal grandparents were George and Leah J. Russell of Alabama. Their son, Rev. G. D. Russell, was born in Franklin county, Alabama, April 29, 1824, and became a prominent minister of the Baptist church, devoting his life to the cause of Christianity, his services as pastor being sought in some of the eastern states as well as in Texas at a later day. He was married on 11th of August, 1842, to Miss Emily M. Stovall, a daughter of A. L. Stovall, also a minister of the gospel, who officiated at the marriage.
The Rev. Mr. Russell was ordained to the ministry in his native county on the 17th of September, 1849, and from that time until 1853 his labors were confined to northern Alabama. In the latter year he removed to Lee county, Mississippi, where he engaged in preaching and also in teaching school for eighteen years. In the fall of 1870 on account of failing health he removed to Texas and settled near Lexington, then in Burleson but now in Lee county. After a short residence in Milan [Milam] county he removed, in the winter of 1875, to Williamson county near Circleville and in 1882 he became a resident of Lampasas, where his death occurred on the 16th of February, 1884. In his family were twelve children, seven sons and five daughters.
B. L. Russell, whose name introduces this review, was born October 25, 1864 in Verona, Lee county, Mississippi, and was the youngest son in his father’s family. When about six years of age he accompanied his parents on their removal to Texas. His early life was practically spent on a farm and his early education was acquired under the direction of his father and in the public schools of his home locality. When he had become qualified for teaching he secured his attention to that work for three terms, but he regarded this merely as an initial step to other professional labor, desiring to become a member of the bar. Accordingly he entered the office of T. B. Wheeler, then of Cisco, who was afterward lieutenant-governor of Texas and also studied under Colonel DeBerry, with whom he remained for several months, giving close attention to his studies through the summer of 1887. Being compelled through lack of sufficient means to earn his own living he, in the mean time, worked in a cotton gin for John F. Patterson, being thus engaged at intervals through the fall and winter of 1888. In the autumn of the latter year, however, he received financial assistance from C. U. Connellee of Eastland, whereby he was enabled to enter the University of Texas at Austin. Subsequently he taught a private school at Cross Plains, Callahan county, for two months. Hit was his intention to return to the university, as an older brother had previously offered to furnish him money for this purpose, but failing to receive a reply to his request, the letter from his brother repeating his offer of assistance being miscarried, Mr. Russell abandoned the project of completing university course and accepted a position in the public schools of Cross Plains, where he taught for seven months. He was also in charge of another private school after the close of the public school term. About this time at the solicitation of friends he accepted the nomination for prosecuting attorney of Callahan county and was elected in the fall of 1890, serving for a term of two years. He then returned to Cross Plains, where he taught another school and in the meantime he was married and both he and his wife taught in the same school during the terms of 1892 and 1893. In the fall of the latter year he became a teacher in the public schools of Baird and in the spring of 1894, following the close of the school, he accepted a clerkship in the mercantile establishment of T. E. Powell, with whom he remained until the summer of 1896. He then again became a candidate for county attorney, receiving the nomination at the primaries and was elected in the fall of that year. At the close of his term he was offered the nomination of county judge and was duly elected to that position in the fall of 1898. He served as judge of the county for four terms, having been re-elected in 1900 and in the fall of 1902 he was again a candidate for nomination but was defeated. Since that time he has devoted his attention to the general practice of law and is accorded a liberal clientage, his law business being of a distinctively representative character, so that he is connected with the most important litigation tried in the courts of his district. In the spring of 1904 he was once more called to public office, being elected mayor of Baird, in which position he is now serving, giving a public spirited administration that is characterized by the same fidelity and interest which he displays in his private business affairs.
On the 12th of April, 1892, Mr. Russell was united in marriage to Miss Katie Surles, a daughter of John Surles, one of the early settlers of Callahan county. In their family are three children: Olbern, Wendell and Benjamin.
Judge Russell is a member of the Masonic fraternity, belonging to Baird chapter No. 182, and also to Baird lodge No. 47, K. of P., in which he has filled all of the chairs. He is now district deputy grand master of the Masonic order for the state of Texas, and likewise district deputy for the Knights of Pythias. He belongs to that class of men known as self made, being compelled in his younger years through force of circumstance to carve out his own success, and he accomplished it in spite of disadvantages and unfavorable environment. He has, however, steadily worked his way upward, winning a position of prominence of his public duties he has been guided by a sense of justice and right and extensive knowledge on legal matters, and he has therefore discharged his duties with credit to himself and to the satisfaction of all concerned. He is a gentleman of pleasing personality, of tact and excellent business qualifications and undoubtedly a broad field of usefulness and success lies before him.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 448.