Funeral services for Brigadier General Russell Eldered Summerlin, U.S. Army Ret., age 90 of Delta, will be Thursday, January 9, 2020 at 11:00 AM at Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church with Rev. Zenus Windsor and Elder L.C. Harris officiating. Burial with military honors will follow in the adjoining cemetery. Mr. Summerlin passed away on Sunday, January 5, 2020 at his residence.
Russell Eldered Summerlin was born and raised on his family’s farm in Delta, Alabama. He began a life of service to his country and his state when he was drafted in the United States Army in 1950. After basic training, he was deployed to Korea and later Japan, during the Korean War. After his return from the Army, he joined the Alabama Department of Public Safety in 1956. During his career with DPS, he served in various roles and assignments, including highway patrol trooper, supervisor, Post Commander, and Commander of the Safety Education Unit, rising through the ranks to the rank of Captain. While with DPS, he attended and graduated from the prestigious FBI National Academy in Washington, DC. His final post with DPS was as Commander of the Trooper Academy in Montgomery, AL. In 1972, he left DPS to establish and lead the University of Alabama Law Enforcement Academy (UA LEA), one of four regional Academies formed following the creation of the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission in 1971. Before the creation of the commission, there was no agency to regulate the qualifications of law enforcement officers and law enforcement training facilities in the state. Over the next 17 years as Executive Director of UA LEA, and for a stint as Director of both UA LEA and Northeast Alabama Police Academy in Jacksonville, AL, he oversaw the training of thousands of law enforcement officers. While leading the academy, he continued his education, obtaining both a bachelors and master’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Alabama. Upon his retirement, he was inducted into the Alabama Peace Officer’s Hall of Fame for his immeasurable contributions to law enforcement professionalism in the State of Alabama.
Summerlin also continued his military service after returning from Korea, serving a long and distinguished career in the Alabama Army National Guard. He rose in rank to Brigadier General and was commander of the 31st Armored Brigade, headquartered in Northport, AL, upon his retirement in 1989.
Upon retirement, he moved back to the family farm in his native Clay County. His life of public service continued even in his retirement, as he served one term as a Clay County Commissioner, and later as the State Chairman of the Alabama Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).
Of all of his many accomplishments, none eclipsed his role as a son, a brother, a friend, a Christ-follower, a grandfather, and a father. He loved life, and he loved people. He treated all with dignity, respect and grace. He was a true and loyal friend to so many, and he treasured the relationships and bonds formed throughout his life. If he was your friend, you never had to wonder if he loved and cared for you because he demonstrated it through his words and actions. Most especially, he loved his family and was so proud of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who are all benefactors of his love and example. His life and legacy will continue to impact all who knew him long from now.
He is survived by the mother of his children, Joyce Mozelle Summerlin of Northport; special friend, Debra Brown of Delta; one daughter, Deborah “Debbie” Rubio (Greg) of Northport; two sons: Michael Summerlin (Darla) of Delta, and Tim Summerlin (Renae) of Northport; seven grandchildren: Dale Mitchell (Melissa), David Jordan (Beth), Michael Gene Mitchell (Tommie), Danny Jordan, Brian Rubio (Meagon), Joseph Summerlin and Jacob Summerlin; eight great-grandchildren: Sarah Mitchell, Tyler Mitchell, Abigail Mitchell, Dalton Mitchell, Aron Mitchell, Kayla Cobbler, Delaney Johnson, Ben Jordan and Abigail Jordan; and four great-great-grandchildren.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Russell Pruitt Summerlin and Faye Inez Mitchell Summerlin; and his sister, Bettie Haynes Harris.
Pallbearers will be Tommy Messer, CW5 Ronald Honeycutt, Maj. Gen. Mark Bowen, CMSgt Richard Little, Brig. Gen. Wendell McLain and Greg Dothard.
Honorary pallbearers will be Brig. Gen. Gerald Dial, Robbie Dial, Greg Turner, Hubbard Stephens, Maj. Bert Hedrick, Gerald Clark, Charles “Buggs” Jordan and Col. Ray Warren
The family will receive friends on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 at Benefield Funeral Home in Lineville from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM. He will lie in state one hour at the church from 10:00 AM until service time at 11:00 AM.
Benefield Funeral Home in Lineville is in charge of arrangements.