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Joyce Russell: A Life Dedicated to Public Service

6:59 PM, Feb 8, 2013   |    comments
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This year's 21st annual Black Heritage Celebration in Downtown Tampa payed tribute to African-American writers and the contributions they've made to the literary world.  

Also today - one very special lady received the Legacy Award in recognition of her 30-years of public service and for making a difference in her community.   

Joyce Russell has plaque after plaque which paint a picture of her dedication over the years. But it hasn't been an easy path.  She's one of three children raised by a single mother. She can recall the day her mother had to go to the government for help, "She had worked, had worked all of her life .. she ended up having a nervous breakdown, she could no longer work again so I had to go on a government program. I was not proud, neither was my mother. We were not proud to be on welfare but there was no other way."  

She credits a social worker who took an interest in the family with helping her get through school.   

"I was motivated. I wanted a good education because I saw that as my way as getting out of poverty," added Russell.   

She graduated from Pinellas High School in 1967 with a 4.0 and was class valedictorian.  

Russell said, "I got a full 4 year scholarship to Florida Presbyterian College in St. Petersburg which you know today as Eckerd College. Again, there was a government grant there that was part of my financial package to help me."  

So, Russell says to her it was only natural that she would follow the path of public service, "Just like I was helped, I wanted to help somebody else to fulfill their dreams."  

And that she has. Joyce Russell has helped break barriers, lobbied to change state laws, and worked to educate the African-American community about redistricting. She retired from Hillsborough County in 2011 after nearly 30 years of public service. And now, she's the latest recipient of the 2013 Legacy award - an award she helped create.

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