BUD RUSSELL

"UNCLE BUD"

Who is this "Uncle Bud" fella ?


Chief Transfer Agent for the Texas prison
system Bud Russell was a legend in his
own right!

He was the man who was responsible for
delivering 115,000 men and women to justice
in his forty-years with the prison system.

Everywhere that "Uncle Bud" would go he
would attract the attention of the people
in what his unwilling passengers dubbed
"The One Way Wagon" or "Black Betty".


ROY AND "UNCLE BUD" RUSSELL
AND THEIR "ONE WAY WAGON"
In the lower yard of the Walls Unit, Huntsville, Texas, 1934.






This custom truck with it's welded boiler
plate sides and wire mesh grill side windows
was designed to prevent escape attempts by
his prisoners during transportation.

It's rear double-bolted doors secured by
large Yale padlocks kept his passengers who
were chained together by the necks, in check.
photos copyright: Bud Russell Family Collection (courtesy of Robert H. Russell)






This old toy truck made by Keystone of Boston, Mass. (1926)
bears a striking resemblance to Uncle Bud's "One Way Wagon."





ROY RUSSELL WITH ONE OF THE EARLY SIX
PASSENGER TRANSFER TRUCKS (CIRCA 1924)


photo copyright: Bud Russell Family Collection (courtesy of Robert H. Russell)
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SIMILAR TO NATIONAL BISCUIT COMPANY TRUCK Click Here





WACO, TEXAS APRIL 19, 1930
After Clyde's escape from Waco he had
burglarized a dry-cleaning establishment and
the offices of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
in Middletown, Ohio where he was nabbed and
returned one week later to the Waco jail.

While waiting for Bud Russell to transfer
him to "The Walls" at Huntsville, he wrote
letters to Bonnie.

In some of his letters he mentioned his
apprehension about "Uncle Bud" coming for
him.

In Clyde's letter to Bonnie he wrote...
"Well old dear, here's Bud Russell, I don't
know whether he's going to take us up or not,
but I guess he will.
If he does, be sure to come down, as soon as
you can"...

He continues his letter...
"No, honey, they aren't going to take me this
time and I am sure glad, for maybe I can get
a chance to get my time cut again. Honey, Uncle
Bud may come back tomorrow, but if he doesn't,
I'll write to you"...

Two days later on April 21, 1930, Uncle Bud
had come for Clyde, He chained him by the neck
to the other criminal passengers and then
transfered him the one hundred miles to the
state prison, to begin his 14 year sentence.

Administration Building of the Texas Prison System,
Walls Unit 1942 - present
photo copyright: Bud Russell Family Collection (courtesy of Robert H. Russell)





VINTAGE POSTCARD N.C. CHAIN GANG


For the inmates comfort in the harsh cold
of winter he would roll down the heavy
canvas curtains over its screened windows.

The large man with a mean appearance often
traveled with his son Roy who would keep
an eye on the passengers by way of mirrors
positioned in various places on the truck.

The truck, with it's heavy duty springs
and mud-tires made it dependable on the
road.

No man would dare challenge this no-nonsence
character who would often make it clear, by
saying "You're just about forty years too
late if you think your tougher than me"!
He'd sooner die than give up a prisoner.

Bud Russell who logged in an incredible
3,900,000 miles on the road transporting
prisoners, retired in May 1944, at age 69.

He finished out the last days of his life
on his stock farm in Blum Texas.



A well armed Bud Russell seen in foreground
delivering prisoners to the Walls Unit, 1938.
above photo copyright: Bud Russell Family Collection (courtesy of Robert H. Russell)








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CHIEF TRANSFER AGENT
TEXAS PRISON SYSTEM
BUD RUSSELL PORTRAIT (CIRCA - 1930)


ASSISTANT NIGHT WARDEN
THE "WALLS" UNIT
ROY RUSSELL PORTRAIT (CIRCA - 1938)

above photos copyrighted 2001 - courtesy of Robert H. Russell





Bud Russell at the Walls Unit, Huntsville, Texas 1934
Bud's grey Stetson hat was his trademark.
above photo copyright: Bud Russell Family Collection (courtesy of Robert H. Russell)











BUD RUSSELL IS REMEMBERED IN SONGS



Summary: Texas is rich in space and myth, in the 1920's it had perhaps
the greatest cultural diversity of any southern state. East Texas is
not particularly the Texas of cattle, cowboys and wide open plains. It has
rich bottom land and cotton flourished there as did sharecropping.
There were plantations up and down the Brazos River. If Mississippi had its
dreaded Parchman Farm then Texas had the spectre of Uncle Bud Russell
and the Midnight Special. Both were equally feared by black men in Texas.
Yet within its borders, black music was vital and had a particular style
and sound all its own.

Lightnin' Hopkins in his "TEXAS BLUES" album
sings his "BUD RUSSELL BLUES". The song begins
in a mellow tone.

Sure is hot in here
Bud Russell don't care
He said he didn't send for me
And he didn't ask me to come down here

Then there's the "MIDNIGHT SPECIAL"!
(playing in the background of this page)
sung by the likes of Leadbelly, and later
made known to a new generation by
John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater
Revival. The song begins like this...

Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine her ever-lovin' light on me

"Here come Bud Russell," How in the world do you know?"
Well he know him by his wagon, and his forty-fo'

Big gun on his shoulder, big knife in his hand
He's comin' to carry you back to Sugarland.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL served as the theme song for Burt Sugarman's
weekly music program, "Midnight Special", which aired on television
from 1972 to 1981 and was hosted by the legendary "Wolfman Jack".

There is a large sacred and secular African-American tradition
of songs of release from slavery, from prison, from a world of
trouble. In a field recording made in the '30s, an inmate of a
southern penitentiary sang of the imminence of Diamond Joe,
a mysterious agent of salvation. "DIAMOND JOE" grew out of the chorus
of his incantation. Sonya Cohen does the vocals and it goes like this...

If I don't go crazy, I'm bound to lose my mind.
I can't see nothing breaking, boys,
 nothing but the long sight line.
Diamond Joe, where you find him, Diamond Joe,
 where you find him,
Diamond Joe, where you find him, Diamond Joe.

Go and tell Bud Russell, tell old Ludlow Jones,
Everytime you see me crying, that's my trainfare home.
Diamond Joe, come and get me, Diamond Joe,
 come and get me,
Diamond Joe, come and get me, Diamond Joe.


J.B. Smith remembered Bud Russell in his song...

J. B. Smith: Ever Since I Have Been A Man Full Grown & Two Other Prison Songs Sung Unaccompanied

Recorded at the - Ramsey Prison Farm, Texas, November 18,1965

- I Got Too Much Time For The Crime I Done
- The Danger Line
- No More Good Time In The World For Me
- Sundown Man
- Ever Since I Been A Man Full Grown
- Bud Russell





Robert H. Russell is the Great Grandson of the legendary Bud Russell.
He currently has a couple of books in the works on his famous Great
Grandfather. Updates are forthcoming. Thanks, Robert!