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Russell H. Brown

Obituary for Russell H. Brown

October 7, 1916 - June 27, 2018
Austin, Texas | Age 101


Russell H. Brown, 101, passed away June 27, 2018.

Russell was born in 1916 to Alzie and Ray Brown at the home of his grandparents, Katie and Clark Brown near Boston, Massachusetts.

He was the oldest of four siblings, two brothers and a sister.

He graduated second in his class of 323 from Mechanic Arts High School earning him the City of Boston's Benjamin Franklin medal for scholastic excellence. The Franklin medal afforded Russell entry without examination to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where in June 1938, he earned a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering with specialty in railway and highway.

Heavy rains and record-breaking floods in the wake of the 1938 New England hurricane created an employment opportunity for Russell and launched what was to become a 43-year career with the Water Resources Division of the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

During his career at USGS, Russell:

Worked in the Boston office on new high-water marks and streamflows caused by the 1938 New England hurricane.

Worked in the Miami office, focusing on surface and underground water resources to address saltwater contamination in municipal water supply wells. While there, he learned to fly. After receiving his Private Pilot's License, he went on to complete a Secondary Course in aerobatics, flying a Waco biplane trainer.

Was called to active duty in June 1943, thus beginning a 2 ½ year military furlough from USGS—see Russell's military experience below.

Returned to USGS via its Albany, New York office in 1945, where he helped set up a network of observation wells to monitor storage changes in groundwater reservoirs in Upstate New York.

Worked in the Washington D.C. office from 1947 to 1962. During this period, Russell:
Became a Registered Professional Civil Engineer in the District of Columbia, thus giving him authority to approve design specifications and plans for engineering work.
Was designated Project Leader of a 3-man team commissioned to review Bureau of Reclamation data on Yuma Valley drainage problems in Yuma Valley, Arizona. The team received a letter of commendation from the Secretary of the Interior.
Was appointed Chief of the Research Section of the Ground Water Branch where he oversaw a research program of over half million dollars, distributed among more than 20 research projects.
Was selected sole government scientist on a 5-man panel of U.S. experts chosen by the Kennedy White House to meet with a 5-man panel of Mexican experts and examine salinity of Colorado River being delivered to Mexico below Yuma, Arizona. The panel's work was hosted by the Office of International Boundary and Water Commission in El Paso, Texas and results were presented to the State Department in a classified report. Russell received a letter of commendation from the Kennedy White House for his work.

Worked in the Phoenix office, which had just been approved to obtain surplus military aircraft suitable for use as remote sensing platforms. Russell upgraded his Private Pilot's License to Commercial Pilot with Multi-Engine and Instrument Ratings, allowing him to fly the twin-engine Navy Beech D-18 transport planes on a number of aerial photographic exercises to study hydrologic systems. He flew missions in the continental U.S., Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Worked in the northern Virginia office as Regional Research Hydrologist for the Atlantic Coast Region of the Water Resources Division, where he mentored personnel in two dozen research projects with a combined budget of over a million dollars.

Received the Interior Department's Distinguished Service Award in 1975. It was presented by the Secretary of the Interior, for his outstanding contributions to the USGS in the fields of developmental research in groundwater hydraulics and technical administration.

Worked as Technical Officer from 1974 to 1984, on a research project with Draper Laboratory to explore building an airborne laser device capable of terrain profiling which, if successful, would have expedited data collection in the geologic, hydrologic, and mapping sciences. He moved his research activities to the Stennis Space Center, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi in 1977.

Retired from the USGS in 1980, and soon afterwards returned to part-time status to complete and publish a professional paper on the laser terrain profiling system above.

Ended his part-time employment with USGS in 1994.

Russell's military experience began with his call to active duty in June 1943 and ended when he was honorably discharged late in 1945 following VE (victory in Europe) and VJ (victory in Japan) Days.

After completing Basic Infantry Training at Fort McLellan, Alabama, Russell was assigned to a Mojave Desert water-well drilling battalion, which was soon after decommissioned and absorbed into the newly formed 1135th Engineer Combat Group.

In August 1944, as part of the 1135th Engineer Combat Group, Russell landed at Utah Beach on the Cherbourg Peninsula in Normandy, France and became part of XII Corps in General George Patton's Third Army.

Russell directed operations of several Engineer Battalions and Bridge Companies and he held the 5-striper rank of Tech Sergeant.

Russell's retirement activities included:
City of Picayune, Mississippi representative on the Picayune/Pearl River County Airport Board.
Pearl River County's United Way Secretary/Treasurer.
Pearl River County Meals-on-Wheels driver.
Over 15-years of hooking rugs of assorted sizes-some of his own design, and others kit designed.

Russell moved to the Westminster Manor retirement community in June 2005 where he served as a volunteer worker for the Library and the Hidden Treasures Committees. He relished Westminster life and the abilities and dedication of all those who made it so comfortable and nice.

In 1949, Russell met and married Bertha Densmore. They had one daughter and one son. In 1984, Bertha lost her battle with emphysema.

Russell is survived by his brother Roland Brown of Harpswell, Maine; daughter Linda and her husband, Randall Morgan of Austin, Texas; son James of Lynchburg, Virginia; grandchildren Michael Morgan of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kelly Simone of Pine Beach, New Jersey; and great-grandchildren Marshall, Logan, Maxwell, Colby and Macie.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30p.m. on Saturday July 21, 2018 in the Chapel of Westminster Manor, 4100 Jackson Avenue, Austin, Texas. A reception will immediately follow in the Westminster Solarium.

Donations in Russell's memory may be made to Hospice Austin.

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3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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