September 24, 1961: Death of Blind Golfer Clinton Russell

On this day in Duluth in 1961, Duluth businessman Clinton Russell, known for his ability to play golf after becoming blind, died in Duluth. Russell was born in Duluth on October 8, 1895. His father, Newell Russell, was the co-founder of Duluth’s Bridgeman-Russell creamery. Clinton Russell attended public elementary schools in Duluth and Duluth Central High School before attending college at Syracuse University. He served in the U.S. Army during the first world war, after which he married Marion Ruth Jones. The couple moved to Duluth and lived at 2132 East Fifth Street, and he went to work for his father. In 1924 he lost his sight after an automobile tire exploded in his face as he attempted to repair it. At first he gave up his favorite past time, golfing. A few years later Ridgeview Country Club pro Sammy Belfore gave him some golf lessons, and soon he was back on the links, with a caddy adjusting his stance and  direction and the club’s face. Russell soon became a phenomenon, and matches against other blind golfers were set up in Duluth and Texas. His 1938 match with Londener W. H. J. Oxenham even made the pages of Time magazine. In 1946, Clinton won the title of champion blind golfer in a tournament against four opponents in Inglewood, California. Read biographer David Ouse’s entire biography of Russell here.

Clinton F. Russell, year unknown. (Image: Duluth Public Library)