J. Ward Russell

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J. Ward Russell (August 26, 1876 - February 9, 1967) was Mayor of Glens Falls, New York, an attorney, School Board member and a career civil servant.


J. Ward Russell compiled one of the longest records of public service in the history of the city of Glens Falls. He was a two-term Mayor of the city, served as a member of the Board of education for over 40 years and 12 as its Chairman. Additionally, he was the city's attorney, city judge, county judge and surrogate and for many years was a member and president of the Hudson River Regulating Board. He was appointed to this board by then Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.[1]

Additionally, he had been a member of the Board of Health, president of the Warren County Bar Association, administor of the Warren County Rationing Board during World War II, appeals agent for the Warrensburg Draft Board, member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, president of the New York State Association of School Board as well as president of the Glens Falls Masonic Club.

In 1902, J. Ward opened a law office. Then, after 10 years of activity in the Democratic Party, he won election to the Board of Education in 1912. He offered his legal services to the Board resulting in the Board never needing a lawyer to help with legal opinions thereby saving the city money.

In 1919, while serving as the president of the school board, then Mayor W. Irving Griffing appointed J. Ward to the board of health. He was appointed to the same board again in 1923 by then Mayor Charles W. Cool.

In 1925 he resigned from the Board of Health to become the city attorney at the request of the then Mayor Orville C. Smith. J. Ward held this position for the next six years. In 1930, upon the death of Judge George Raley, J. Ward was honored by then Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt with the appointment as the city judge and surrogate to fill out Raley's unexpired term.

In 1932, Roosevelt again honored Russell with an appointment to the Hudson River Regulating Board. Russell was interviewed for this appointment just a few months prior to Roosevelt being nominated for president at the Democratic National Convention. Russell served as president for several years including the time of the opening of the Sacandaga River Reservoir. It was during J. Ward Russell's service that the reservoir was constructed.[2]

During World War II, Russell was appointed administrator of the Warrensburg County Rationing Board and held that responsibility throughout the war.

In 1953, at age 73, Russell accepted his party's endorsement for Mayor and won the office. In 1955, a party split denied him reelection, although the Democrats polled more votes together than did the Republican opponents. But, in 1957, Russell was back as a candidate and won the election handily[2] and served another 4-year term as the city's mayor.

Personal life[edit]

Russell (was born in Potter Township in Yates County, NY. He was the third child and second son of Bloomfield Webb Russell (1837 - ) and Sylvia (Brayton) Russell. Bloomfield and Sylvia lived in Shaftsbury, Vermont and eventually bought land in Potter, NY. Bloomfield was a sheep farmer.[3]

He moved to Glens Falls at an early age and graduated from Glens Falls High School in 1898. He went to work for Ashley and Williams law firm before attending Albany Law School. He graduated there in 1901.

In 1906, J. Ward married Gertrude Whipple (November 12, 1881 - December 12, 1926) from Glens Falls, New York. She was the daughter of Charles and Ida May (Murrey) Whipple. J. Ward and Gertrude had one daughter Julie, who was born May 4, 1907 in Glens Falls and who graduated from Wellesley College.

J. Ward Russell lived on Williams street in Glens Falls. During the Great Depression, the Russell's put a sign on their house to homeless/hungry people that this was a place they could get food.

Russell's wife Gertrude died in 1926. In need of a house keeper, J. Ward's nephew Bloomfield Russell and his wife Estelle Dearstyne Russell (sister-in-law to notable architect Robert Rheinlander) came to live with him with Estelle keeping house. Then in about 1931, J. Ward married Etta Brayton, a first cousin. They never had any children. Etta owned and operated a tea room and was highly interested in healthy living and eating well before it was fashionable. Subsequently, Bloomfield and Estelle along with their two daughters Patricia Jane Russell Burgin (1926–2007) and Natalie Merle Russell Findlay (1931 - ) moved from J. Ward Russell's home. J. Ward made arrangements for Bloomfield and Estelle to meet Roosevelt when he was in Glens Falls and Estelle shook Roosevelt's hand when she was pregnant with Natalie.

J. Ward was also a Freemason.[4]


J. Ward Russell died in Glens Falls, NY on February 9, 1967 from a stroke.


  1. ^ Glens Falls Post Star August, 1956
  2. ^ a b Glens Falls Post Star August, 1956
  3. ^ Ancestors of Our Grandchildren and Their Cousins 742-1977 by Harriet R. Frische Library of Congress card number 77-84420
  4. ^ List of Freemasons