Benjamin Russell




Beacon of Hope


Rick McCrary

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Benjamin Russell was born on a small farm in Tallapoosa County in 1876. He practiced law briefly in Birmingham before returning to Alexander City to run the family mercantile business after his father suffered a debilitating stroke in early 1900.

At the age of 24, Russell founded the Citizens Bank (now part of Alliant Bank) of Alexander City. After a fire gutted the city's business district in 1902, Russell rebuilt his bank and also founded Russell Manufacturing Company. The company began in a small wooden building with six knitting machines and 10 sewing machines operated by a dozen employees. In the ensuing years, Mr. Russell showcased his pioneering spirit by also creating the first telephone service in Alexander City, as well as engineering a dam when his mill needed electrical power. Because of this relationship and his foresight, Lake Martin became a major power source as well as a recreational haven that many enjoy to this day. He created a municipal water supply as well as founded the State Chamber of Commerce. Regardless of how busy he became with each new enterprise, Benjamin Russell always maintained his dedication to the community. He built housing, a church, and a hospital for his employees.

Mr. Ben, as he was called, was truly a man of vision, and his exceptional leadership has set a wonderful example for many. Mr. Ben's main interest was always to help promote productive lifestyles for others, which would improve their way of life. His commitment to community has benefited the people of Alabama tremendously. As quoted by his grandson and namesake, Benjamin Russell is the origin of all things Russell in Alabama.


"Beacon of Hope" was installed in the Children's Harbor plaza sculpture garden. The 12 foot piece entitled "Beacon of Hope" is the work of local artist, Rick McCrary (also creator of "Beginnings" sculpture in the Harbor lobby) and was commissioned by the friends, family and the Alabama Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Legacy of Leadership 2003, in honor of Mr. Ben Russell for his exemplary service to the Birmingham community.

The art work is a whimsical, brushed stainless steel and glass lighthouse supported by a granite platform (quarried on Russell Lands) and is inscribed with a brief biographical history of Benjamin Russell. A uniquely crafted picture of Mr. Russell as well as scenes from Children's Harbor in Alexander City can be viewed at night on the piece.