Ina Dillard Russell (1868-1953)

Ina Dillard Russell, once known to Georgians as "Mother Russell," was the wife of state supreme court justice Richard B. Russell Sr. and mother to U.S. senator Richard B. Russell Jr.
Blandina Dillard, the thirteenth and last child of farmers America Frances Chaffin and Fielding Dillard, was born on February 18, 1868, in Oglethorpe County, near Lexington. She attended school locally before enrolling at the Palmer Institute in Oxford and the Lucy Cobb Institute in Athens. In 1889 she began teaching third grade at the Washington Street School in Athens.
In 1891 she married Richard Russell Sr., a young Athens lawyer. In 1906 he became one of the first three judges to serve on the Georgia Court of Appeals, and in 1922 he was elected chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. He lived primarily in Atlanta and was home only on weekends.
While her husband pursued his political career, Russell raised seven sons and six daughters on the family farm in Winder, where she also managed several tenant farmers. Although her 1912 ledger shows that she sewed more than 200 garments that year, Russell preferred working outside, planting peanuts, cotton, tomatoes, and potatoes and raising hogs and chickens to make money and feed her family.
Although her husband hired teachers to live with the family, Russell and her sister Patience Dillard often taught the Russell children. When the children went away to school, at the age of thirteen or fourteen, Russell would write long letters to them, with instructions on healthy living, the importance of studying while young, and proper behavior in all circumstances.
Russell's children grew up to become productive citizens, choosing careers in business, education, law, medicine, the military, the ministry, and politics. Russell's oldest son, Richard Russell Jr., became governor of Georgia in 1931, when he was just thirty-three years old. Because he was a bachelor, Russell Jr. asked his mother and father to preside at the Governor's Mansion with him. Thus the heads of the executive and judicial branches of state government were housed under one roof during Russell's tenure as Georgia's first lady. Two years later Russell Jr. became the youngest member of the U.S. Senate.
In 1932 the Georgia State College for Women (later Georgia College and State University), the alma mater of five of Russell's daughters, renamed its library to honor her. Although she never held public office herself, Russell received an unusual salute typically reserved for political leaders and statesmen—Georgia flags were lowered to half-mast in her honor on August 30, 1953, when she died of a cerebral hemorrhage.


Further Reading
Gilbert C. Fite, Richard B. Russell, Jr., Senator from Georgia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991).

Ina Dillard Russell, Roots and Ever Green: The Selected Lettersof Ina Dillard Russell, ed. Sally Russell (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999).

Sally Russell, A Heart for Any Fate: The Biography of Richard Brevard Russell Sr. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2004).
Cite This Article
Russell, Sally. "Ina Dillard Russell (1868-1953)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 10 January 2014. Web. 11 February 2016.
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