Russell was appointed U.S. District Judge for the Western District of South Carolina by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967, to fill the vacancy created by the death of Russell's former law partner, Charles Cecil Wyche. Russell had campaigned for Johnson during the 1964 election and attended Johnson’s inauguration, though their opinions on the Voting Rights Bill differed significantly. He possessed a brilliant mind and had a temperament well suited to the bench and quickly gained the respect of all who appeared before him.
Russell is greeted by
President Jimmy Carter.
In 1971, President Richard Nixon assigned Russell to the Appellate Court bench. Russell and his wife Virginia continued to reside in Spartanburg, though in his capacity as Appellate Judge, Russell traveled to Richmond, Virginia one week a month for nine months of the year. Known for his thorough knowledge of the law, Russell served until his death in February 1998. He never took senior status or lightened his case load.In a tribute, Senator Hollings, his onetime political rival and successor in the U.S. Senate, remarked: “His dedication to improving the lives of everyday citizens has been an inspiration to me and one that I will never forget.” [The State, 2/24/98] South Caroliniana Library director Herb Hartsook interviewed Judge Russell in 1992 and recalls, “I was fascinated that at that time in his life I bored him when I asked him to recall his active and successful past. He lived in the present, and for the future. He grew animated only when we began to talk about the issues he was currently facing, and even more excited in commenting on issues he thought might come before him.”
Russell was inducted into the
South Carolina Hall of Fame in 1987.