His name will now be one of the first things people see when arriving at Thankful Baptist Church — the church where he spent 23 years of his life as pastor.
After several months of work and collaboration between city officials and Nim Russell’s wife, Julia Russell, Gibbons Street has been renamed Nim Russell Boulevard.
The boulevard intersects with Spider Webb Drive right in front of the church.
“My husband brought a whole lot of hope, not just in church, but everywhere,” Julia said. “He could put a smile on your face and he always encouraged you. He saw the good in everyone.”
She said she hopes seeing the sign with his name will inspire those who pass it.
“Hopefully, if he touched their lives in some way, they will see that sign and smile and remember him,” Julia said.
Nim Russell was the longtime pastor at Thankful Baptist Church, until he was killed and his wife severely injured in a wreck on Ga. 140 in March 2014. The car he and his wife were in was struck virtually head on by a drunk driver.
“I’m still standing, even though they said I might not be able to,” she said. “God beats all odds.”
Julia, along with a crowd of about 60, gathered at the new road sign in front of Thankful Baptist on Friday morning, braving the cold and the wind to unveil the sign for the first time.
“My husband, he didn’t like accolades,” she said, smiling. “I wanted this for the people he helped and when I look at it, I’m overjoyed.”
She and Russell were married for 34 years.
“We had three children, 11 grandkids and we were a very close-knit family,” she said. “He always instilled family values as much as he could. I remember he’d call the children and ask what they were doing. If they weren’t in the middle of something, he’d tell them to come over to eat, saying ‘Your momma’s going to cook, come on over.’”
Of course, then, he’d tell Julia she had to cook.
“He’d say ‘Julia, you’ve got to cook, the children are coming,’” she laughed. “So of course I would throw something together. We would sit at the table and laugh about it.”
One of their daughters, Rachael Jones, spoke before the sign was unveiled. “I’m just so happy to be here and to see all of you here to honor our pastor, my father, a wonderful man of God,” she said.
Julia described her husband as a “man on the move.”
“My prayer is that those who see this sign will remember him and the hard work he did,” she said. “That they will be encouraged by the type of man he was.”
Mayor Jamie Doss said Nim Russell was a strong leader.
“Not only spiritually, but in the community, he cared a lot about this community,” Doss said.
City Commissioner Sundai Stevenson said the event was a “double honor” for her.
“I am a member of this church, and I was a member when Pastor Russell was here,” she said. “I remember if you turned to him in turmoil, he would never turn you away. He was there for you.”
City Commissioner Bill Collins said he helped with the renaming of the sign for many reasons.
“Because of the kind of man he was,” he said. “You hear the saying ‘You don’t have to be loud to be heard,’ well, he was loud and heard. He had a great smile and he could be all business. I am thankful for him and the presence he brought to everything he did.”
Pastor Bernard Young, who took the helm of Thankful Baptist, closed the ceremony.
“Although he is not with us in the flesh, we know he is still with us,” he said. “This is a marvelous experience, to see this sign here.”