February 13, 2002

ALLIGATORS, EAGLES, AND HERONS RETURN

In the last few days alligators, eagles, and great blue herons have been spotted adjacent to THE HOLY TRINITY WILDERNESS CATHEDRAL on the shores of Lake Livingston, in East Texas.

With temperatures climbing in to the 60’s, nearly a dozen Great Blue Herons were spotted preening on last year’s nests at their rookery on the rocky shores of the Cathedral grounds.

A young alligator, about four feet in length, was observed sunning on a log nearby and posed for photos after sliding into the water, while flocks of ducks flew overhead and beavers swam nearby.

This afternoon, as ETHICIUS I was taking his parents on a boat excursion to the Cathedral an eagle soared overhead heading toward the highway 190 bridge. A minute or two later a second eagle soared overhead heading toward the Waterwood Marina. About two minutes later, as they neared the cross on the shore of the Cathedral grounds a third eagle was spotted in a dead pine just across from the cross. 

He appeared to be guarding it as well as the Cathedral grounds and was totally unconcerned by the presence of a boat and its passengers which stopped to take photos of him.

Sea gulls by the dozens followed the boat throughout its travels over the relatively placid lake. With Red-bud trees blooming and other trees budding out, Spring is obviously just around the corner.


February 1, 2002

CITIZENS OF THE YEAR----Kenneth Lee Russell, and Marjorie H. Russell

Dr. Kenneth Lee Russell was born in Chilhowee, Missouri on Easter Sunday 1911. Marjorie Haw Russell was born on November 14, 1915 in Charleston, Missouri.

In 1950 Dr. Russell secured a teaching position at Sam Houston State Teacher's College and moved to Huntsville along with his wife, Marjorie and their three children, Mary Lee, Suzanne, and George. For half a century Dr. Russell, with the support of Marjorie, his wife and partner for over 66 years, have played a major role in the health, education, and welfare of our community.

Dr. Russell will soon be 91 years of age, and Marjorie is 86, yet they still work up to 12 hours a day in an effort to enhance the quality of life of all citizens of our planet through their philanthropy, political activism, writings, example, and educational media productions.

The list of their talents and accomplishments is endless. Dr. Russell has been an inventor, teacher, writer, producer, designer, carpenter, electrician, plumber, farmer, builder and innovator, and Marjorie has been a mother, homemaker, author, photographer, and award-winning artist.

He was one of the first men in America to believe in the equality of men and women and that both men and women should be able to achieve any goal without being victimized by sexual stereotyping. Marjorie proved that a woman could be both a stay-at-home mother and an accomplished author, producer and artist. They were also among the first business owners in America to achieve career goals without neglecting their desire to be nurturing parents. Dr. Russell was proud of the fact that he could cook, sew, hook rugs, do needlepoint, knit, change diapers, scrub floors, and accomplish any task normally considered "women's work".

On the other hand, he readily taught his daughters how to nail, saw, farm, mow, dig ditches, and other pursuits normally considered "men's work". Marjorie was also accomplished in these areas.

Over the last 50 years they have helped Huntsville and its citizens achieve a higher quality of life in various ways.

RECYCLING

The Russell's were perhaps our first citizens to push recycling. They never tolerated waste. They encouraged the re-use of old lumber to build houses and furniture, cloth to make clothing and rugs, leaves and organic matter to build compost piles for gardening. They set examples for others to follow. Their first compost pile was built in 1951. From that time forward they have encouraged the city's promotion of compost piles rather than spending tax dollars to bury leaves. They believed that burying paper was wasteful, and in 1968 helped encourage the university to recycle waste paper for a profit. By 1974 their company was baling cardboard for recycling. If their advice had been followed in the 1950's, the citizens of our city would have saved many millions of dollars that were spent to bury thousands of tons of salvageable materials. Our current recycling center would probably not yet have been built without their many years of efforts to educate our citizens and community leaders.

SIDEWALKS

The Russell's have been responsible for the construction of more privately funded sidewalks for public use than any citizens in the history of Huntsville. Sidewalks they helped design and pay for add to the safety and aesthetics of Huntsville. Some are located along 19th Street, Ave O, Ave N, Ave M, and University Ave. In addition they have offered contributions toward the construction of sidewalks in other parts of town as well. They have encouraged the city and school district to construct sidewalks so children won't have to walk in the street. Educational Video Network, the company the Russell's founded in 1953, has employed hundreds of students over the years, thus providing them funds to complete their education. Perhaps more importantly, EVN's paid internship programs have provided vital training using the latest computer and digital technology, allowing Sam Houston graduates, who have been fortunate enough to acquire internships, to gain a head-start in their careers.

ECONOMY

The Russell's believe that profits earned in a community should be reinvested within that community to the greatest degree possible. Unlike the multinational chains in our community that force many small, locally owned businesses to close and send their profits out of state, EVN is a net money importer. Most EVN customers are located out of state and therefore their purchases bring outside money into our community. Here it is used to provide jobs for citizens, for investments in our local economy, and in philanthropy to improve the quality of life in Huntsville.

HISTORIC PRESERVATION

The Russell's believe that it is important for all Americans to respect their heritage. They have worked tenaciously for many decades to preserve our heritage in Huntsville. They purchased a lot at Elkins Lake when it first opened so that the maintenance fees would be used for the protection and preservation of the nationally significant Manor House. They supported the lawsuit to protect the Sam Houston home from desecration. They offered to help pay for a fire alarm system for "old main" before it burned. They offered to purchase the old western auto building as a gift to the Huntsville Community Theater to keep it from being destroyed. They helped the Walker County Historical Commission with funding to paint and begin restoration of the Gibbs-Powell House Museum. They helped fund the restoration of the Old Town Theater. Perhaps most importantly they supported the restoration of many of our oldest homes in Huntsville including the 1831 Bowman Log Cabin, the 1835 Collard Log House, the 1845 George Washington Rogers House, 1848 Royal House, and many more.

TOURISM

The Russell's have always been supporters of tourism, not only as a clean industry but also an industry that imports money into our community rather than exports money. For that reason they have financially supported the protection of our historic buildings and museums that draws tourists. In addition they have contributed to the protection and preservation of our national forests, parks, trees in city right-of-ways, and other aesthetic values which make Huntsville attractive to tourists.

HEALTH

The Russell's are vitally concerned with the health of not only our citizens, but all Americans as well. They have funded the production of hundreds of educational videos, which are viewed by millions of students in every state. Some health related video titles Dr. Russell helped produce include, "Suntan Now, Skin-Cancer Later," "Smoke Now, Lung-Cancer Later," "Basic First Aid," "Binge Drinking," "Teenage Marijuana Abuse," "Vitamins and Your Health," "Fat-Free Cooking," "Alcohol Abuse: Dying For a Drink," "Suicide Among Teens," and many more. EVN videos have contributed to saving countless lives and contributing to the health and welfare of millions of young Americans. Drug abuse is down nationwide due to education of our youth. EVN videos played a vital role in the war against drug abuse, tobacco abuse, and alcohol abuse. In addition Dr. Russell has spent years attempting to return our local tax-supported public hospital to citizen control. The Russells believe that every citizen should have the right to be assisted by the physician of their choice in all public hospitals. They continue to work in the interest of our citizens.

HUNTSVILLE'S REPUTATION

Because Huntsville is considered "the death capital of America," it is extremely important that our negative reputation be overcome by the positive. The Russell's company, Educational Video Network is known and respected throughout America, as well as internationally, as a positive influence in the lives of millions of young people. Huntsville is therefore promoted, because of the Russell's work, as a leader in education. The Russell's have promoted Huntsville and their company's educational productions in US Department of Commerce trade shows around the world. Students in every state in the United States as well as countless foreign countries view EVN productions.

QUALITY OF LIFE

The Russell's have been active in preserving, protecting and improving the quality of life of Huntsville's citizens for half a century. Without their efforts and support, many of our surviving historic homes would have been demolished, many of the beautiful trees along our streets would have been cut down, and many more acres of our national forests would have been clear-cut. The historic First Methodist Church, Austin College, Peabody Library, and ruins of "Old Main" would have been demolished without their efforts. Many of Huntsville's streets would be treeless if it were not for their efforts to protect citizen owned trees along public right of ways. The Russell's have made significant contributions toward better health care, better educational opportunities and a healthier environment for all of our citizens. The Russell's have supported other quality of life issues both financially and through personal efforts. Some include: safe drinking water, prevention of child abuse, better health care for all citizens, better educational opportunities, better schools, pedestrian safety, better libraries, wholesome recreational opportunities for youth, clean air, and preservation of our forests and wildlife.

EDUCATION

Dr. and Mrs. Russell have devoted their entire adult lives to educating America's youth. First as a high school teacher and later as a university professor at Sam Houston State University, Dr. Russell has positively impacted the lives of countless citizens of our community and state, while Mrs. Russell produced countless educational materials for millions of school children. Wishing to reach more children, they founded Educational Filmstrips Company (now Educational Video Network) in 1953. The company they founded has made a positive educational impact on the lives of many millions of citizens of our town, our state, the United States and in dozens of foreign countries around the globe. Having devoted nearly 70 years of their lives to improving the quality of American education, the Russells have been vitally concerned with improving the quality of life as well as the quality of educational opportunities for all young people. For this reason they are working to protect Huntsville's children from abuse and danger. They are currently working to protect our children from spending much of their young lives in a prison-like environment in windowless classrooms, where they are deprived of the benefits of natural light.

PHILANTHROPY

The Russell's have been tireless in their efforts to improve the quality of life for not only the citizens of Huntsville but all Americans and the world community as well. Their donations to philanthropic causes have been substantial, and have contributed to the health, education and welfare of thousands of citizens, both in Huntsville and around the world. They have donated well in excess of three million dollars of educational videos and filmstrips to the Huntsville Independent School District, Sam Houston State University, the Education Service Center, and to financially handicapped school districts across America and abroad. In Huntsville, they have made major contributions of time and finances toward the preservation and restoration of many public buildings including the Josey Scout Lodge, Sam Houston Woodland Home, Steamboat House and Gibbs-Powell House. They were major contributors toward the construction of the Russell gazebo on 19th street. In Huntsville's unofficial sister city in Italy, they have made major contributions toward the restoration of a medieval pilgrimage church, a clinic, a community center, handrails for the infirm, and many other philanthropic causes, including a custom-made electric vehicle for the transport of handicapped persons. They have made significant contributions toward quality of life issues affecting all Americans, including protection our national forests from clear-cutting, improving educational opportunities, and preserving democracy as well as the beauty of America.

As an active member of the Walker County Historical Commission, I have studied the lives of our community leaders for many years. No other 20th century citizens of Huntsville have contributed as much to our community, state, nation or planet as the Russell's. Their latest philanthropic gifts to our future are the Marjorie H. and Kenneth L. Russell Alligator Preserve and the Marjorie H. and Kenneth L. Russell Research Natural Area on Lake Livingston.

For these reasons, I nominate Dr. Kenneth Lee Russell and Marjorie Haw Russell as not only citizens of the year, but citizens of the 20th century.

George H. Russell


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