Delegate Tyler presents resolution to museum board
By Bobby Conner

LAWRENCEVILLE - The James Solomon Russell – Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives Board of Directors is grateful to Senator Louis Lucas and Delegate Roslyn Tyler for introducing legislation on behalf of the museum during the 2020 session of the Virginia General Assembly, which established March 28 in 2020 and in each succeeding year, as James Solomon Russell Day in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

On Sunday, March 21, 2021 Delegate Tyler presented a framed copy of the resolution to the museum board of directors at the Brunswick County Conference Center, where the museum is located. Several members of the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors also attended the presentation.

Delegate Tyler said it was an honor for her to work on behalf of the museum to introduce the legislation in the Virginia House of Delegates. She told those assembled that she had given a presentation on the floor of the House of Delegates during Black History Month that included James Solomon Russell and the museum in Lawrenceville.

“After my presentation, several my colleagues came up to me and expressed an interest in visiting the museum. They were excited that this history had been saved for others to see,” said Tyler. “One of my priorities is supporting tourism in my district and the museum certainly will help increase the number of visitors who come to the area. Thank you all for what you are doing.”

Supervisor Dr. Barbara Jarrett Harris, Chair, expressed appreciation on behalf of the Board of Supervisors for Delegate Tyler’s support and thanked the museum volunteers for their hard work and dedication.

“We have been at the table with you since the beginning. The museum will preserve the legacy of James Solomon Russell and Saint Paul’s College. We want to thank Delegate Tyler for her support.” Dr. Harris said.

After the presentation, James Grimstead, museum board chairman, thanked Delegate Tyler for all the efforts she had made to bring recognition to James Solomon Russell and the museum through sponsoring the resolution. 

“We are extremely grateful to Delegate Tyler for working with us to make James Solomon Russell Day a reality,” said Grimstead. “This is a day we will all remember and the resolution will help further our mission of providing information about the life and legacy of James Solomon Russell.”

The resolution states that:

James Solomon Russell was born into slavery on the Hendrick Plantation near Palmer Springs in Mecklenburg County on December 5, 1857 and learned the value of hard work at a young age, growing up under poverty conditions with his mother on the farm. James Solomon Russell enrolled in Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1874 and supported his family by working as a teacher for local children.

His education was interrupted when he ran out of funds and had to return home to work on the farm, but he ultimately succeeded in receiving his teaching license.

While teaching with the Book of Common Prayer, James Solomon Russell became interested in the Episcopal Church. Pattie Buford of Brunswick County recognized his talents and recommended that he attend the St. Stephen's School for Colored Missionary Training in Petersburg.

James Solomon Russell built his first church in Palmer Springs while in seminary school in 1879, he was ordained in 1882 and sent to Lawrenceville to pastor a colored congregation meeting at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.

In 1882, James Solomon Russell began opening schools and senior housing for the poor in the area, in addition to opening nine new parishes.

In 1888, James Solomon Russell began preparation for a higher learning institution that eventually became Saint Paul's College. He started with a two-room school called the Saul Building and helped the institution grow to a campus of 35 buildings, 50 faculty members, and 800 students.

In 1893, James Solomon Russell was named the Archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, overseeing more than 30 churches representing thousands of congregants; and

James Solomon Russell received two doctoral degrees and was twice selected as bishop, an appointment he declined.

In 1929, James Solomon Russell was honored with the William E. Harmon Foundation's gold medal award for his achievements.

James Solomon Russell died on March 28, 1935 and in recognition of his exceptional accomplishments as a faith leader, James Solomon Russell was canonized as a local saint by the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia.

Senate Resolution 7, was agreed to by the Virginia Senate on February 11, 2020 and House Resolution 20, was agreed to by the Virginia House of Delegates on January 29, 2020.

For more information about the museum call James Grimstead at (434) 848-3800 or Bobby Conner at (434) 917-0759. The museum has attained 501 3 © status. Donations may be made to P. O. Box 551, Lawrenceville, Virginia 23868. Check out www.jsrussell.org or www.spcmuseum.org.