Salem is known as the City of Champions, and that label certainly applied to Russell Gwaltney. The Salem native and retired Salem police officer died Monday at the age of 81.
Russell became famous at a young age, as he won a national marbles tournament at the age of 12. Charlie Turner, who was the Director of Parks and Recreation for Salem, took him to Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1951 to compete in the national tournament in June of that year and Russell won it all, defeating James Lilly of West Virginia in the championship.
After a stint in the Navy Russell joined the police for in Newport News, then moved back to Salem in 1962 where he served for 34 years as a uniformed officer, detective and member of the SWAT team.
I also remember Russell as a faithful contestant in our football contest for about as long as I can remember. It will be strange to grade the entries next fall and not have one from Russell.
He was a good man and I was blessed to have known him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.