Albert Barnard Russell, M.D., 89, surrounded by his family, entered peacefully into the arms of his Lord on August 24, 2019, after a short battle with aggressive Multiple Myeloma.
Barnard was born on February 7, 1930, in Evergreen, Alabama and was raised in Brewton, Alabama by hardworking, Christian parents. At age thirteen, a funeral changed his life as he stood curbside watching a mile-long car processional for the local family doctor. He decided that if one man could make that much difference in a community, he would also serve others by pursuing family medicine. He attended Emory and Tulane University, where he earned his medical degree. He moved to Ft. Walton Beach in 1955 and joined Robert Maxon in the Magnolia Medical Clinic but was immediately drafted by the Navy serving two years in Jacksonville, followed by a two-year residency in Alexandria, Louisiana. He returned to Ft. Walton Beach and Magnolia Medical Clinic in 1960.
For the next fifty years, Dr. Russell delivered over 1,500 babies, performed thousands of surgeries, and became one of the first doctors to achieve Family Medicine Diplomat Board status, which he kept current throughout his career, earning the distinction of being the oldest physician in the United States to pass American Board of Family Medicine re-certification in his seventies. He solicited and convinced Humana to build the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center where he served as President of the Medical Staff. He also served the community as Ft. Walton Beach Hospital Chief of Staff, President Okaloosa County Medical Society, physician for the Choctawhatchee High School football team and President of the American Cancer Society.
Medicine was not the only decision he made in an instant that changed his life. At age 15, Barnard spotted a lovely young woman on Pensacola beach, turned to his buddy and said, “That’s the girl I am going to marry!” The friend scoffed, “Marry? You are too chicken to even meet her.” Barnard walked over introduced himself and captured the girl of his dreams, JoAnne Walker. They dated through high school, married at age 20 and celebrated their 75-year love story this year.
Barnard personified his favorite word, enthusiasm. Throwing himself into every endeavor, from twilight swims across the bay wearing a glow in the dark swim cap, to painting, writing poetry, landscaping, and singing his favorite 1940’s love songs constantly. He would say, “I can’t wait to get to heaven so I can sit on a cloud and sing with a ‘good’ voice.”
His greatest life-long passions were scouting, where he obtained Eagle rank and earned every merit badge available, fishing, winning 2nd place in the Destin Blue Marlin tournament, and quail hunting. Since boyhood Barnard loved his many bird dogs and roaming the woods especially with his hunting buddies Gaston Walls and Kelly Roark.
Barnard always found strength in the Lord and prayer. Often his family would find him praying for his patients at the kitchen table and he firmly believed that God, the Great Healer, used him as an instrument to heal. In recent years, as he sat quietly looking out at the bay he loved, when asked what he was thinking would say with tears in his eyes, “I’m just praying.” For nearly 60 years, Dr. and Mrs. Russell have been members of First Baptist Church, raising their daughters in the church and Barnard serving as Deacon.
Barnard is preceded in death by his parents, Albert Barnard Russell, Sr and Ruth King Russell. He is survived by his beloved, loving wife of 68 years, JoAnne Walker Russell; and three daughters, Jett Tanner, and her husband Steven, Caryn Whitney, and her husband Jim, and Julee Dardeau; four grandchildren, Chris Tanner, and his wife Laura, Walker Tanner, and his wife Massiel, Jourdan Bennett, and her husband Jeff, and Shane Whitney. Barnard is also survived by four great-grandchildren, Sutton, Thatcher, Harrison, and Natalie Tanner.
The Russell family expresses gratitude for the skilled and compassionate care Barnard received by Dr. Henry Hsiang, the 4th floor nursing staff at FWB Medical Center, and Regency Hospice. We especially thank Pearl King and Joanne Gartman who have been loving caregivers and dear friends to the entire Russell family for many years.
A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, September 3, at First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach at 4:00 p.m. Please join the escorted car processional immediately following from the church to a sunset reception to celebrate Dr. Russell’s life with his family and friends.
Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, the National Alzheimer’s Association, or locally to, Hope Matters.
To send flowers to Albert Barnard Russell, M.D.'s family, please visit our floral section.