Sgt. Lee Russell with the Tennessee Highway Patrol who was killed in a helicopter crash near Whitesides in the Chattanooga area on Tuesday afternoon was hailed as one of the finest troopers around who loved his job with a passion.
He may have come by that passion by watching his father, Steve Russell, who was also a highway patrolman, now retired.
His father was with the criminal investigation division.
“I had my office at home,” said Steve. “He was always interested in what was going on.”
But as much as he was interested in what was happening, he liked it even better when he flew with his dad from the Carroll County Airport. Sometimes Steve might even let him pilot a little bit.
“He would go with me all the time when I flew the Ben Gaines plane,” said Steve.
Lee got his license when he was 20 years old.
He attended the University of Tennessee at Martin and it was there that he chose the path that would lead to his becoming a member of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. He has flown miles and miles during his career looking for drugs, fugitives on the run, and missing persons.
“Lee never knew life without a plane,” said his dad.
However, at first he served as a road deputy in Hickman and Dickson Counties. But when a pilot’s job came open, he took it.
“He had his heart set on THP aviation and never waived from it,” said Steve.
Steve was spared from death at least three times himself after being shot during his tenure with the Highway Patrol.
Steve said so many people told stories about things that Lee had done for them that his mother, Cherry, and himself had no idea about.
“We ask for your continued prayers for us and Det. Matt Blansett’s family,” said Steve.”We could never say thank you enough for the hundreds that came to support us at Lee’s death.”
He said the family is thankful and glad that Lee was doing what he so enjoyed at the time of his death.
He leaves his wife, Mandi, and two children, Connor, 5, and Tenley, 1.
Only recently, Steve said, Connor’s kindergarten class was asked what their daddies liked to do and Connor answered, “My daddy likes to go to work.”