Following a questionable youth and after an inexplicable sojourn to Kansas resulting in a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963, Bob returned to law school in Columbia, Missouri. The time in Kansas was probably related to volleyball and women.
Bob escaped Columbia in 1963 with a law degree and without a criminal record despite spending too much time with C. H. “Chub” Parsons. There may still be open investigations in Boone County.
Apparently still able to pass a background check after law school, Bob clerked for Judge Floyd Gibson at the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri (1963-1964). His clerkship is memorable only because of his proficiency in handball and his unholy association with Joe Teasdale before Joe became “Walkin’ Joe.”
Bob went straight from the federal court to a real job with the Popham Law Firm. He was able to hold that job for about three years (1964-1967) before he left Kansas City for Warrensburg. There are conflicting reports about the reasons for this move. However, he left great lawyers behind at Popham and he joined a great partner and mentor in soon-to-be Judge David Dixon.
Establishing a trend, Bob only lasted about three years in private practice in Warrensburg (1967-1970) before Gov. Warren Hearnes appointed him as Judge Dixon’s successor on the bench. While in practice he received the Lon O. Hocker Trial Lawyers Award (1970) recognizing his outstanding trial skills.
Bob finally demonstrated he could hold a job over three years and he served as Circuit Judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit (Johnson and Cass Counties) from 1970 to 1986. He had an astonishing career and was considered to be one of the finest trial judges in the State of Missouri. His awards are too numerous to mention but during this time but they include: Chair, Missouri Bar Courts and Judiciary Committee; President, State Trial Judges Section, Missouri Judicial Conference; Member, Presiding Judges Executive Committee, Chairman, Supreme Court Judicial Education Committee; and, Member Commission on Retirement Removal and Discipline. He epitomized what the administration of justice should look like. Most importantly, everyone who appeared in Bob’s court was treated fairly and with respect.
In 1986, Bob left the bench and came back into the practice of law with what is now the firm of Kempton & Russell. The accolades continued to pile up including induction into the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Society of Barristers, and the American Board of Trial Advocates. He continued to contribute to the profession as reflected by the Spurgeon Smithson Award recognizing his service toward justice in society and dedication to the legal profession. He has mentored more lawyers than most of us know. Most importantly, he has been the best law partner ever.
Judge Russell retired from the practice of law in July 2021 and passed away on April 7, 2022.
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