Leon H. Russell, Jr., DVM, PhD, passed away June 17, 2019, at the age of 88. He was born March 15, 1931, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Opal (Shepard) and Leon H. Russell, Sr., DDS. Russell and his older brother Orville (Buster), were raised on a farm outside of Tulsa. He raised rabbits to sell as well as other animals. He enjoyed spending time with his dad, uncle, older brother and cousin, camping and fishing in the Missouri Ozarks. During his teen years, he developed an interest in music and took guitar and steel guitar lessons. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in Texas A&M. Due to unforeseen circumstances, he had to leave A&M and attended the University of Missouri where he earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1953 and a DVM in 1956. He went on to receive a master’s degree in public health from Tulane before obtaining his PhD in public health from Texas A&M. He was a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.
While attending the University of Missouri, Russell met his future wife, Martha. They were married on June 10, 1952, in Monett, Missouri. During their 67-year union, they were blessed with two children.
Russell was a professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in College Station, Texas, where he joined the faculty in 1959 to launch an epidemiology course for veterinary students. He was the first American to be elected president of the World Veterinary Association. He also served as president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and Texas Veterinary Medical Association. Russell was dedicated to his work and students in his 58-year teaching career. He stressed that education was an important part of life, going beyond college, and that one is never finished learning.
Russell received many awards and recognitions during his career, including a WVA honorary membership from the AVMA, the Senator John Melcher, DVM Leadership in Public Policy Award from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and a Distinguished Career Award from the Texas Veterinary Medical Association. He was active in organized veterinary medicine throughout his career. In his free time he enjoyed reading and fishing.
He is survived by his wife, son Bryan Russell of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; son Curtis Russell and wife, Janie, of Dickinson, Texas; two granddaughters, five great grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
His family has planned a visitation from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, June 25, followed by a life celebration service at 1 p.m. at Hillier Funeral Home in Bryan, Texas. He will be interred at 3:30 p.m. at the Aggie Field of Honor in College Station.