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Route 1 road market honors church pioneer

SoVaNow.com / October 30, 2013
The life and accomplishments of Episcopal Archdeacon James Solomon Russell were formally recognized on Saturday with an historical marker installed on U.S. Route 1 near the place of his birth in Palmer Springs.

The marker text reads: James Solomon Russell (1857-1935)

James Solomon Russell was born enslaved on 20 Dec. 1857 on the nearby Hendrick Plantation. After emancipation, he attended Hampton Institute and St. Stephen’s Normal and Theological School and was ordained in 1882. As a religious missionary, Russell established nearly 30 churches. He also founded the St. Paul Normal and Industrial Institute (Saint Paul’s College) in Lawrenceville in 1882 and was its principal until 1929. In 1892, Russell became Archdeacon for Colored Work in the Diocese of Southern Virginia. Inspired by Booker T. Washington, he started an annual farmers’ conference in 1904. Russell urged African Americans to stay out of debt, vote, and become landowners.

The impetus for the marker came from the James Solomon Russell Celebration Committee and was supported by the Episcopal Church Diocese of Southern Virginia.

Russell was one of the most prominent African-American pastors in the post-Civil War South. As a minister and educator, he played a major role in the development of educational access for former slaves in Southside Virginia and within the Episcopal Church.

Russell’s ties to Saint Paul’s College were noted on an earlier marker dedicated in 1994, and located at the intersection of Windsor Ave. and College Dr. in Lawrenceville. That marker celebrates the history of Saint Paul’s College, which Russell started as an Episcopal Mission School to serve the black community in Southside Virginia.

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