Monday, January 27, 2020

In memory, Burl Russell (1923-2020)

Funeral services for Burl Russell were held today at the Callaway-Allee Funeral Home in Crockett, Texas, at 10:00 a.m. His body was committed to the ground in graveside services at the cemetery in Huntington, Texas at 2:00 p.m. Burl’s son Mike preached the memorial. Sacred Harp singers sung 507b The Glory of The Cross, 341 The Lone Pilgrim, and 282 I’m Going Home.[i] Other special songs I associate with Burl are 164 Duane Street and 75 I Would See Jesus. This latter tune is the one he used to sing the text “Dressed uniform his soldiers are” – The gospel uniform, Hymn No. 184 in Benjamin Lloyd’s Primitive Hymns. I learned several songs from Burl that were traditionally used with Lloyd’s hymn texts.

Burl served for many years as the chairman of the annual Nancy Amelia “Granny” Russell Sacred Harp Singing at Little Hope Primitive Baptist Church near Huntington, Texas. If I remember correctly, he has been chairman since the death of his cousin, Louie Smith, in 1998. This singing began many years ago as a celebration of his grandmother’s birthday. At the singing last November Burl was present (all day, at age 95) – though he left his son in charge – along with four generations of his family. I remember one of Burl’s singing school teachers that he mentioned – Mr. C. A. Bond. He also felt greatly indebted Mr. R. J. Behannon, and all the singers in his family, of course.

At the time of his passing, Burl Russell was age 96 and had lived in Austonio, Texas for many years. He was born December 7, 1923 in Huntington Angelina County, and passed away Friday, January 24, 2020 in Community Care Nursing Home in Crockett, Houston County. Joshua Russell and Jennie Clark were his parents. He served in World War II in the United States Air Force as a member of the 51st Air Corp. Burl owned and operated the White Rock Nursery for 55 years, which he purchased from fellow Sacred Harp singer George Jeffus. He was a member of the Nurserymen Convention, and served on the Farm Bureau Board of Directors for 40 years.

Burl is survived by three children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and a great host of friends and relatives.  His wife, Margie Beth Hayes Russell, preceded him in death in 2009.

Online condolences may be made at

[i] Burl is the gentleman seated in the lower left of this The Glory of the Cross video. I hope to find online a video of Burl leading, but have not as of yet.

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