During a time where Alabama was the seventh poorest state in the nation, Russell facilitated growth in Tallapoosa County comparable to the state’s few economic hubs. Russell Mills grew to encompass a 350-home “mill village.” To support his community, Russell continued to expand by constructing churches, markets, schools, a cotton mill, a waterworks system, and a grocery store. Among other public services, he established a local hospital now known as Russell Medical, a multi- complex facility and a proud affiliate of UAB Health Services. Russell’s charisma and ability to encourage economic growth amid a national depression propelled his legacy across the state as an entrepreneur who could strike a deal with any man willing to listen. He set out to test this theory and visited every county in the state, determined to be a driving force in the creation of the Alabama State Chamber of Commerce in 1937, where he served as president for 3 years until his death. The humanitarian works of Russell are felt statewide today, but his largest impact still remains with the entirety of Tallapoosa County.
Following his death in December 1941, the Russell family decided to close many of the businesses started by “Mr. Ben,” the endearing nickname given to him by locals. The remaining businesses formed into the Russell Corporation and rose to prominence as a Fortune 500 company with over $1.25 billion in assets and sales with close to 18,000 international employees. His family also followed his philanthropic works closely to honor his legacy. Today, the Russell Foundation Scholarship provides millions in scholarships and grants to local students. The Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children, a branch of Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, bears his name after a $25 million donation by his grandson. A hidden gem of Alabama history, Benjamin Russell remains a prominent cornerstone in our state’s legacy.