Attorney Joseph L. Russell and his wife, Ida Pearl Avant.

Attorney Joseph L. Russell, one of the founding members of Sacramento’s Black bar association, passed away March 13. Russell was 80 years old. 

Born in Birmingham, Alabama on November 17, 1942, Russell was the second child born to Eva Lou Billingsley Russell and Arlee Russell.  His primary and secondary education was obtained in Birmingham, Alabama Public Educational System.  His undergraduate and law degrees were obtained at Howard University in Washington D. C.

While at Howard University, he met the love of his life, his soulmate and best friend, Ida Pearl Avant.  Joe and Ida were married on July 17, 1966.  He was in his first year of law school and she was in her junior year of undergraduate school at Howard.   

Russell became a member of the Air Force ROTC while at Howard and because of his leadership skills, rose to the rank of Captain once he passed the bar exam.

After serving as a Judge Advocate General for two and a half years in the Air Force, Russell and his family settled in Sacramento.  A former law school friend, Jimmy Long, had just been appointed as a Judge and California State University was looking for someone to fill the vacancy left in the Criminal Justice Department by Long’s Departure.  Russell applied for and received the appointment as professor.  

Russell had the distinction of being admitted to the bar associations in Alabama and California.  However, he was most proud of his admission to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.  

Russell was one of the founders of the Wiley Manuel Bar Association of Sacramento and also served as the President of the California Association of Black Lawyers.  He freely gave his time to serve anyone who was unable to pay legal fees. He did pro bono work for the court, and served on the Board of the Legal Aid Society of Northern California and the Board of the Sacramento Suicide Prevention Society.  He has received numerous plaques and resolutions for his services.

Russell united with Shiloh Baptist Church in 1974 and was an active member of the Deacon Board. 

To cherish his memory, he leaves his wife of 56 years, Ida Russell, two sons: Joseph Russell Jr. and Michael Corey Russell (Kristina), the granddaughters: Madison Russell and Mackenzie Russell, two brothers: Leonard Russell (Juanita), Carl Russell (Connie), one sister: Sandra Jackson, Brother in-law: Isaac Avant (Kim), and numerous nieces and nephews.