J. Scott Russell covered everything in his sports reporting career, from little league baseball to high school sports championships to NFL games.

He was hard-pressed to pick a favorite.

“My favorite sport varies between the individual seasons,” he said at the time of his hiring here at the Panola Watchman. “Whatever is in season is usually my favorite. But there’s nothing better than a fall weekend with high school football on Friday night, college football on Saturday afternoon and the Dallas Cowboys and NFL on Sunday. And as much as I like baseball, I’m usually looking forward to the start of NFL training camps in August.”

Russell died in his sleep late Sunday or early Monday from natural causes. He was 59. Funeral arrangements are pending at Hawthorn Funeral Home in Carthage.

Russell was a longtime sports reporter in Texas, working for the Wichita Falls Times Record News for more than 25 years covering high school, college and professional sports. He also worked for more than six years at the Stephenville Empire-Tribune. Russell first started working for the Watchman in April 2018.

Originally from Rome, New York, Russell majored in mass communications at Abilene Christian University, while serving as both the assistant sports editor and the sports editor for The Optimist, the award-winning student newspaper.

During his time in Wichita Falls, Russell’s primary beats were Midwestern State football, Midwestern State women’s basketball and high school baseball. He was a four-time winner of the Lone Star Conference’s Sports Writer of the Year Award, and also received honors for his coverage of the 1990-91 Wichita Falls Texans, who captured the Continental Basketball Association title.

After joining the Watchman staff, Russell’s sports coverage and photography garnered him numerous regional and statewide awards. His desk at the office was continually piled with score boxes and the steno pads he used to cover each game he attended, but more often than not he was out on the sidelines or in the stands.

“While everyone at the Panola Watchman feels a loss with Scott’s passing, we believe the greatest impact will be the loss the sports community will feel, as everyone that came in touch with Scott knew his commitment to telling compelling stories about Panola County athletes and the people involved with them,” Watchman Publisher Alexander Gould said.

Former Watchman Publisher Jerry Pye praised Russell’s deep knowledge of sports and his quick wit. Russell liked to banter, especially during staff meetings.

“He had kind of a dry sense of humor,” Pye said. “The times that i got to sit with him and visit, it was always a good time.”

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