Nellie Pratt Russell
|Nellie Pratt Russell was born on May 4, 1890 in
Macon, Georgia. In 1907, she entered the College of Arts and Sciences of
Howard University and was at once confronted with and intrigued by the
discussion taking place among upper-class women with regard to the
establishment of a sorority. She became an initiate of Alpha Kappa Alpha
in the latter part of her sophomore year, Nellie Pratt, Mabel Gibson, Lena
Jenkins, Ruth Gilbert, Mary Clifford, and Ella Albert Brown were the first
group of women initiated into the sorority. She remembers the thrill and
pride of wearing her plain gold ivy pin. Like her associates, Nellie Pratt
was deeply committed to the volunteer activities sponsored by the
sorority, and with other members of the sorority worked in different
sections of Washington, distributing food and clothing to the needy.
She graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1911. Her first appointment was as an English and history teacher at Topeka Normal and Industrial School, Topeka Kansas. She remained in Topeka until her father's death in Macon in 1913. Then, in order to be nearer to her mother, she secured an appointment in Lawrenceville, Virginia, at St. Paul's Normal and Industrial School (now Saint Paul's College). She taught English at St. Paul's for 50 years.
In the same year (1913), she met and married her husband, the late Dr. J. Alvin Russell, president of St. Paul's College, a position which he held for many years.
The Russells had four sons and one daughter. Even so, Mrs. Russell found time to attend Columbia University and earn the Master of Arts degree.
As the years passed, more and more faculty members arrived at the college wearing ivy leaf pins. The group organized around Mrs. Russell and sought to further the cause of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Their first project was to encourage scholarship through the establishment of honor roll teas. By 1949, there were enough interested women at St. Paul's to form a new chapter, Gamma Lambda Omega. Mrs. Russell served this chapter as president, secretary, correspondence secretary and historian. She also served as advisor to Alpha Upsilon Chapter, the undergraduate chapter on the campus of St. Paul's College.
With her associates in Gamma Lambda Omega, Mrs. Russell established a scholarship loan fund for undergraduate students, supplied milk to indigent children in local elementary schools, and initiated a clean-up week on campus. Gamma Lambda Omega members also worked with the Red Cross.
Mrs. Russell's daughter and three of her daughters-in-law are also members of Alpha Kappa Alpha. James, her oldest son, was president of St. Paul's College from 1971 until his retirement in 1981.
In 1969, Mrs. Russell received a plaque from her chapter for outstanding service to the sorority, and that same year she was elected "Mother of the Year" by the local chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity She received several other awards. One of the buildings on St. Paul's campus was named in honor of Mrs. Nellie Pratt Russell and Dr. J. Alvin Russell. She was similarly honored by the local chapter of the Student Virginia Education Association - Student National Education Association (SVEA-SNEA) which bears her name. An annual scholarship award was established at St. Paul's College in recognition of her service to the school.
Nellie Pratt Russell died on December 13, 1979 in Lawrenceville at the home of her son and daughter-in-law, Dr. James and Soror Lottye W. Russell. She is buried in Lawrenceville.