Lee Maurice Russell: Fortieth Governor of Mississippi: 1920-1924
While a student at the University of Mississippi, Lee Russell was a leader in the movement to abolish Greek fraternities. When he later became a member of the Mississippi Legislature from Lafayette County, he introduced a bill in 1912 to prohibit secret and exclusive societies at the public institutions of higher learning. Russell’s anti-fraternity law was enacted and remained in effect for fourteen years.
After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1901, Russell, who was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi, on November 16, 1875, enrolled in the university’s law school and completed the course in 1903. While practicing law in Oxford, Russell began a political career that would lead to the state’s highest office.
He represented Lafayette County in the state House of Representatives from 1908 to 1910, and was elected to the Mississippi Senate in 1911. In 1915, Russell was elected lieutenant governor. Following his term as lieutenant governor, Russell was elected governor of the state in 1919.
During Russell’s administration, Mississippi suffered four consecutive
years of agricultural depression and crop failures that were due primarily
to a sustained drought and the infestation of the boll weevil into cotton
crops. Those conditions created extreme hardships for the state’s
farmers and led to a rise in farm tenancy and rural poverty. Thus, Governor
Russell called for financial retrenchment within state government. He
recommended, among other initiatives, a state department of labor, a reforestration
policy, and the adoption of a state budgetary system.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Posted January 2004
Kirwan, Albert. The Revolt of the Rednecks, 297-299.
McLemore, Richard Aubrey. A History of Mississippi, Vol. II.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1920), 35.
Lee M. Russell Subject file, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Sansing, David G. The University of Mississippi, A Sesquicentennial History (Jackson, 1999), 177-78, 200-211.
The Clarion-Ledger, May 19, 1943.
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