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Russell in his early days as a practicing physician at Community Hospital

Russell retiring after 53 years

By Michael Butler

The legacy of Dr. Melvin Russell in the field of medicine in Tallassee is unparalled. Russell has practiced here for more than five decades. He is now hanging up his stethoscope.

May 6 marked Russell's final day. His career at Community Hospital began in 1969. The Tallassee City Council issued a proclamation at the April 26 meeting on Russell's 53 years of service to the city and its residents.

"Dr. Russell has given back to his community in many ways," the proclamation read. "We recognize him on his long-standing commitment to serving our community."

Russell served on the Board of Directors with Community Hospital for 20 years. He was also medical director at Tallassee Health and Rehabilitation.

A graduate of Bush High School in London, Kent., Russell received his undergraduate degree from Eastern Kentucky in 1962. He received his medical degree at the University of Louisville in 1966.

His first position was as an intern in Columbus in 1966. From 1967-'69 he served in the Air Force at Maxwell in Montgomery. His first work in Tallassee started in '69 and he was full-time in 1970.

Russell (top row, fourth from left) with fellow doctors at a Community Hospital luncheon, circa 2000.

Community Hospital CEO Jennie Rhinehart has worked with Russell in Tallassee since she was hired at the hospital in 1979.

"We can't show enough appreciation for how much he's been dedicated," Rhinehart said. "When he first came here he did appendectomies and delivered babies. There were no limits on what was expected of them. He did it all. He's one of a kind. He never said no to anything.

"I think you'd probably be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't know who Dr. Russell is. It's hard to wrap your head around the constant fixture and resource he's been throughout the decades. I can't envision not having him here. Tallassee's been incredibly fortunate."

A retirement party was held for Russell on May 6 at the 1220 Warehouse. He was honored with the Making A Difference Award at the Tallassee Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet in March.

Emfinger and Russell

"I first met Dr. Russell at Community Hospital in East Tallassee. To those of us who grew up in Tallassee, that was the old hospital across the river," Chamber President Melinda Emfinger said. "Dr. Russell delivered me on Oct. 17, 1970 and I have been his patient ever since.

"When talking with Dr. Russell I asked for his thoughts on his career and he said, 'I've just always worked. I've worked my whole life.' And that he has. For 53 years, he has served the people of Tallassee. Many doctors have come and gone, but one thing has remained the same at Community Medical Arts Center over these many years - and that is Dr. Melvin Russell tirelessly serving his patients and community."

Russell has served with Alcazar Shrine in Montgomery and has been a Master Mason with Doric Lodge #406 since 1987. He and his wife Elizabeth have four children, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.