Bill Russell was a trailblazer. He’s a cultural and political icon from times that were a lot stranger and more dangerous than 2021.
The octagenarian has seen every major event in world history up close and personal ever since his 1934 birth. Russell was born during times when racism was brazen and discrimination was the norm of the day.
One could say that the burning fire within him that powered him to 11 championship runs was kindled by the circumstances of his childhood and his upbringing. Bill’s parents, grandparents and other family members faced racial injustice at every step of their lives.
It was this unfairness in the world that Bill would think about as he worked himself into a fury before every Celtics game. Bill would scream, cry and even throw up during preparations for his game with these thoughts.
One value that his family always knew would be necessary for him in his life was education. Mama Russell had her own unique way of ensuring that Bill would get a good education.
Katie Russell made his father promise he’d send Bill Russell to college on her deathbed
The Celtics legend gave a long, highly revealing interview with The Library of Congress a few years back. This interview went into great depth when exploring the racially motivated incidents experienced by the great throughout his life.
He believed that the drive for his family to get educated was a basic element of his mother’s plans for him. Katie Russell, his mother, made Bill’s father promise that he’d send his kids to college on her own deathbed.
“She gave me (the name) Felton to set me on a path that I respected by going to college. In fact, my mother died of kidney failure. And she was in the hospital sick, and she knew she was dying.”
“So she called my father and said ‘I want you to promise me something. You will send my boys to college.’ And my father promised her that.”