PONTIAC, Mich. – The late Dr. Frank Russell grew up in Pontiac, played college basketball at the University of Detroit and was later drafted by the Chicago Bulls, but it’s what he did after that that makes him a legend in his community.
Russell died in September 2021 but the city of Pontiac is making sure he is never forgotten.
The corner of Earlmoor Street and Nebraska Street is where Russell grew up and Tuesday his family, supporters and city leaders announced Earlmoor Street will now be known as Frank Russell Boulevard.
“I come here today to honor not just a man, but a family, a legacy that has been the blueprint for this community, the southside, since I could remember,” said Pontiac city councilwoman, Melanie Rutherford.
Rutherford is the one who came up with the idea and has worked since the Fall of 2021 to make this change happen. She refers to Russell as a mentor and spoke before the new boulevard was unveiled.
Russell’s son Rahim Russell also spoke as he held back tears.
“He was a pillar in the community,” said Russell. “I’m starting to get a little emotional right now. My mom, brothers and sisters, the whole family actually, we miss him tremendously.
The big moment was personal for many, including Mayor Tim Greimel who refers to Dr. Frank Russell as more than just an athlete.
“He was also in charge of the Oakland County economic development group that was really focused on helping small businesses, especially Black businesses, especially women businesses,” said Greimel.
Russell was also a youth advisor and founded the Youth Development Institute and worked with Pontiac News.
Greimel believes changing the boulevard’s name will help instill more hope.
Frank was somebody who wanted everyone in Pontiac to be successful and hopefully by seeing his name on street signs young people, people coming up in the community now will be inspired to really fulfill that message, that dream Frank had for everyone,” said Greimel.
Mary Russell, who was married to Russell for more than 50 years says that is how her husband would have wanted it.
“He’s looking down on us and I know he appreciates what’s been done for him today in his honor,” said Mary Russell.