February 17, 1922 -November 26, 1994
Wife: Margie Tilton
Children: Jane Kirby Whilden, James R. Kirby, Jr., David F. Kirby
James Russell Kirby, son of Sanford and Cora Scott Kirby, was born in Wilson County. Growing up in the St. Mary's community, his earliest childhood memories were of helping his parents on the family farm.
Russell graduated from Lucama High School in 1939 as valedictorian of his class. In 1943, after earning a bachelor's degree from UNC, he entered the Army Air Corps. As a sergeant he served in the South Pacific and after being wounded in combat in Iwo Jima, he was awarded the Purple Heart of Valor. After the war, Russell returned to UNC School of Law. After graduation in 1948 he began what would be 46 years of legal practice in civil and criminal law.
In the early years of his career, Russell served as town attorney for Pikeville and Kenly, and served as mayor of Fremont two terms. He also served the town of Kenly as solicitor for Recorders Court. Later he became a senior partner in Kirby, Webb & Hunt (Supreme Court Justice John Webb and Governor Jim Hunt). In 1963 Russell was elected to the North Carolina Senate where he served 6 terms.
During his legal and political career, Russell often referred to a favorite memory, recalling that the day he found out he had passed the NC Bar Exam he had been cropping tobacco all day. Although he didn't choose farming as his career, he always had special pride for his farming roots.
Memorial contributions by friends and family