Howard Hyde Russell

Howard Hyde Russell, founder of the Anti-Saloon League, was born in Stillwater, Minnesota, October 21, 1855. Finishing school at age 16, he undertook a series of careers. After having such varied careers as driving cattle and editing a newspaper, he finally settled down and studied law in Iowa. He was admitted to the practice of law June of 1878. He married Lillian Davis in 1880.

A portrait of Howard Hyde Russell
A portrait of Howard Hyde Russell.

Lillian Davis Russell was a very religious woman. Through her prayerful and persuasive influence, Russell experienced a conversion experience. He gave up his lucrative law practice and went to Oberlin College in Ohio to study for the ministry. Quite an orator, he soon had successes in his pastorates in the Congregational Church. While pastoring, he wrote a book entitled A Lawyer's Examination of the Bible.

Another portrait of Howard Hyde Russell
Another portrait of Howard Hyde Russell.

Russell had long been a strong opponent of alcohol and its purveyor the saloon. Finally, in 1893, he decided to take the lead and found the Ohio Anti-Saloon League from the remnants of previous temperance movements. He shares the following story on arriving at this decision:

One of the Sunday-school boys was crying at my door and asked me to come. "It's my mother," he sobbed. "She died with pneumonia. Only sick three days. Three of us left. Father, little sister, and myself." I took the street address,... and there was the father intoxicated... and there were three or four neighbor women with liquor upon their breath. ... Then I asked the boy, "Do you know what caused your mother's death? It was the drink. Are you ever going to drink, my boy?" I asked him. " I'll never touch it," and the boy clenched his little hand as he said it. I then made a solemn promise also: "I promise to go out to my brothers and sisters of the churches, regardless of their name and creed, and I will appeal to them to join their hearts and hands in a movement to destroy this murderous curse."

When the national Anti-Saloon League was founded in 1895, Russell was chosen as the first national superintendent. He held that post until 1903 when Purley Baker succeeded him.

In 1899, Russell was chosen as state superintendent of the New York state league and held that post concurrently with the national post until 1903. He continued to serve in New York until 1908. Many of Russell's proteges rose to prominence in the League, among them Wayne Wheeler and Ernest Cherrington.

A portrait of Howard Hyde Russell and Ernest Cherrington
A portrait of Howard Hyde Russell and Ernest Cherrington.

In 1903, Russell founded the Lincoln Lee Legion, a pledge signing program. He loved to speak and traveled across the country drumming up support for the League and the Legion. He raised five million dollars for the dry cause.

When Russell retired, he held the title of Superintendent Emeritus of the League. He died in 1946 at the age of 90.

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