A good guy gone, media favorite Cliff Russell dies at 61
By Roz Edward
Detroit’s media community and Detroiters in general were profoundly saddened at the loss of veteran journalist and community activist Cliff Russell. The popular host of “The Cliff Russell Show” on 910 AM, fluent in television and radio broadcasting platforms suffered a heart attack while announcing a University of Detroit men’s college basketball game in Chicago. Russell was 61.
Russell, a well-respected and beloved member of Detroit’s media community had been a mainstay in Detroit media for more than three decades. His remarkable career spanned 35 years and he was at times the subject of news reports himself having broken through color barriers to open doors for members of the black press.
In 1994, the affable communications expert became the City of Detroit’s first African American press secretary, appointed to the position by then Mayor Dennis Archer. The former reporter and anchor for CBS station WWJ TV was also the first African American Senior Director of Communications in Major League Baseball when he worked for the Detroit Tigers.
Having won a host of local, state and national awards for his achievements in radio and television broadcasting, Russell’s career and life are celebrated by viewers and friends. He is remembered for his thoughtful and introspective commentaries, and his dedication to Detroit and the well-being of all of its citizens. “Cliff was just the best, and this really hurts,” said long-time Michigan Chronicle columnist Steve Holsey. He was good friend who was always willing to support you in your endeavors … the kind of guy that would take the time to call you and compliment you on a story. He was a genuinely good person.”
Along with serving as a news anchor, political analyst, sports commentator and columnist in the Detroit area for more than 35 years, the much-loved activist served the Detroit community through his generosity and commitment to philanthropic and community causes.
For several years, Russell hosted “American Black Journal” on Detroit Public Television.
A native of Detroit, Russell graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Broadcast Communications. During his undergrad he played basketball at WSU where his physical prowess earned him a spot in the Wayne State University hall of Fame.
“Cliff was the consummate Tartar … he said the Warrior nickname was an adjustment for him. When we did our first radio broadcast in 2002, it was Cliff at the mic in the UNI (Northern Iowa) Dome. That was a pivotal moment for WSU Athletics. Simply put, he had a big presence at everything he did. His laugh, infectious grin and positive reverence for Wayne State. He loved basketball. It was his passion and he shared it with everyone he met.” said Rob Fournier, Wayne State University athletic director.
His brother, Greg Russell, is a U-D graduate and also a prominent member of the media and has served as the Public Address Announcer at men’s and women’s basketball games, as was a contributing writer to the Michigan Chronicle. Greg also appears on WDIV’s Live in the D program on a weekly basis as a film critic.
He is survived by his three sons, three daughters, two step-sons and seven grandchildren and his wife.