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story.lead_photo.caption Otis Stanley Russ of Conway is shown in this file photo from 2000.

A man who served in the Arkansas Senate for 26 years died Thursday at age 86, three weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia.

Otis Stanley Russ of Conway was a state senator from 1975 through 2000.

During his tenure, Russ, a Democrat, served as president pro tempore of the Senate and occasionally as acting governor.

Much of Russ' legislative action was in support of public, private and higher education.

Former President Bill Clinton said he liked, respected and admired Russ.

"I loved working with him, when we agreed and when we didn't," said Clinton, who was governor of Arkansas for 12 years while Russ was a senator. "Throughout his long service in the state Senate, everyone who worked with him held him in high regard.

"I will never forget his kind heart, bright smile, complete honesty and passionate devotion to his constituents. Stanley did a lot of good, and he made all of us who worked with him better."

Former Gov. Mike Beebe said Russ was a good public servant who was constituent-oriented.

"He was a big defender of and proponent of the University of Central Arkansas, obviously, being in his district," said Beebe, who was in the state Senate from 1983 through 2002. "He was also a fighter for good government, like ethics reform."

One of Russ' favorite pieces of legislation that he sponsored was Act 114 of 1977, which clarified what rights were afforded poll watchers during an election, thus making elections more honest, according to the The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture.

He was born Aug. 31, 1930, in Conway to O.S. Russ and Gene Russ. Stanley Russ was the youngest of three children.

Russ grew up on a dairy farm near Conway. He attended the Training School on the campus of Arkansas State Teachers College -- now the University of Central Arkansas -- in Conway from the first through seventh grades. In the eighth grade, he transferred to Conway Public Schools and graduated in 1948.

He attended Arkansas Polytechnic College, which is now Arkansas Tech University, in Russellville and Arkansas State Teachers College before transferring to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where in 1952 he received a Bachelor of Science in Education degree with a major in agriculture.

Russ married Nina Ruth Benton of Conway in 1951, and the couple had two children. Nina Russ died in 2005.

Stanley Russ served in the U.S. Army from July 1952 until July 1954. He completed Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., and as a second lieutenant was an instructor of artillery. He was discharged with the rank of first lieutenant and was then named company commander in the Arkansas National Guard in Morrilton. He remained in the Arkansas National Guard until September 1961.

After leaving the Army, Russ went to work in the life insurance business and remained in that line of work throughout his time in the state Senate. He was also involved with agriculture and raised cattle.

Beebe said Russ had a good sense of humor.

"He was always joking," Beebe said. "He loved big words, but he used them in a joking manner."

Beebe said Russ would tell people that they had "a fecund mind," and they often didn't know whether they had been complimented or insulted.

"He was down to earth," Beebe said. "He was someone you could count on for advice and for standing up for what's right. He was a good senator."

Vic Snyder, a former congressman and state senator of Little Rock, remembered Russ for his hard work and decorum.

"He was very hard working, very committed to doing right by Arkansas," Snyder said. "He enjoyed a sense of humor, and most of the time we enjoyed it, too. I found him to be always polite."

Skip Rutherford, dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, said Russ had a long list of accomplishments.

"Through his civic, faith and legislative commitments, Sen. Russ' life was one of dedicated service," Rutherford said.

Russ served as president pro tempore of the Arkansas Senate from 1995 to 1997 and occasionally served as governor when the governor and lieutenant governor were out of state at the same time. On one of those occasions, in November 1996, Russ created the Medal of Honor Commission that built the Medal of Honor Memorial on the Arkansas Capitol grounds.

After he retired from politics, Russ continued to serve the public in his own way by helping to keep Faulkner County clean. He was regularly seen picking up litter around town in Conway.

Visitation is scheduled for noon Monday with the funeral starting an hour later. Both will be held at Central Baptist Church in Conway. Roller-McNutt Funeral Home of Conway is handling the arrangements.

State Desk on 01/07/2017

Print Headline: 26-year state Sen. Russ, 86, was UCA supporter

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