The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1997, and updated in 2007.
Benjamin Russell is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Russell Lands, Inc. Benjamin Russell, a native of Alexander City, Alabama, was born on January 18, 1938. He is the son of Robert Alston and Adelia McConnell Russell. He attended the grammar school and high school of Alexander City and continued his education at both Mercer University and the University of Alabama.
Career Highlights: He started his working career with summer jobs at Russell Corporation, a large textile firm founded in 1902 by his grandfather. After college and active duty training in the Air National Guard, he was employed by Russell Corporation as a management trainee.
In 1970, Russell became president of Russell Lands, Inc., a private company owned by the Russell family. Russell Lands, Inc., had been a dormant land and timber company, but it has not been transformed into a diverse organization with more than 270 employees and is recognized as Alabama’s largest recreational development company.
The company owns some 250 miles of shoreline on Lake Martin, which is one of the oldest, largest, cleanest, and most beautiful blue water lakes in the South. Over the past 25 years, Russell Lands, Inc., has developed ten waterfront residential subdivisions located on and around Lake Martin. These developments are made up of more than a thousand residential lots and about half of these already have beautiful lake homes on them.
Russell Lands, Inc., also owns and manages some 350-rental lake houses. The company’s Construction Division continues to build these homes to meet the expanding demand for vacation housing, and they are also part of the company’s recreational development effort. One of the developments is Willow Point Subdivision that surrounds the beautiful, old lakeside Championship 18-hole Willow Point Golf and Country Club. The company owns and manages this award-winning facility, which includes townhouse condominiums and guest villas. The company owns and operates four full-service marinas; owns and leases two lakeside restaurants; and owns two real estate agencies.
Russell Lands, Inc., is also in the building supply business. The company has six stores that are affiliated with the worldwide Do-it Best Corporation. The building supply stores complement Russell Lands’ focus on recreational development.
Ben Russell also created the ECON Company for the promotion of wood energy in industry. This unique company has been the world leader in developing wood energy systems for the non-forest industries. Russell’s work has resulted in the use of more than 4.2 million tons of waste wood to replace 214 million gallons of fuel oil. ECON also led the way in the research and development of a practical wood gasification power system for vehicles. In 2001, ECON Company expanded its operation into the landscaping mulch and bark field – Pineywoods Mulch Company.
In 1985, Russell became the principle stockholder of Russell Lands, Inc., and the closely held family company anticipates continued progress and success in the future.
Military Service: Air National Guard – 280th ANG, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
Civic, Church, and Social Organizations: Business Council of Alabama, Alexander City Area Chamber of Commerce, First United Methodist Church, Willow Point Golf and Country Club.
Board Memberships: Russell Lands, Inc.; Russell Corporation; Russell Hospital; Benjamin and Roberta Russell Foundation; Children’s Harbor; Children’s Hospital; Lyman Ward Military Academy; Lake Martin Resource Association; ARISE; Willow Point Golf and Country Club.
Humanitarian Interests: In 1987, Mr. Russell founded, and still chairs, the first-ever statewide fundraising campaign for CARE, the world’s largest private relief and development agency. The campaign, CARE Alabama, has raised in excess of $7.6 million for CARE.
In 1989, Russell founded and chairs Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit childcare organization with its mission, “strengthening children and families.” The Children’s Harbor campus is located 15 miles south of Alexander City on beautiful Lake Martin, where you will find the administrative offices and picturesque camping facilities. Mr. Russell has also made a $3 million commitment to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham for the construction of The Children’s Harbor Family Center, an innovative child and family care center. It is a collaborative effort with Children’s Hospital of Alabama and provides counseling to chronically ill children and their families from all over Alabama. The Family Center was opened in May 2001. Honors and Awards: Alexander City Man of the Year—1975; First CARE World Humanitarian Award—1990; Outstanding Philanthropist in Alabama—1994; Member, Alabama Academy of Honor—1997; CARE Philanthropist of the Year—2000.