H. Russell Smith – Businessman, Philanthropist, Friend to Johnny Myers

 

H. Russell Smith with Director RJ McHatton

H. Russell Smith with Director RJ McHatton

It was a little bit smokey over in Pasadena this afternoon.  There was a 120,000 acre fire up in the foothills.  But it was pretty nice down in Pasadena.  I was there to interview H. Russell Smith, former CEO of Avery Dennison and good friend of Johnny Myers for over 75 years.  Russ had agreed to be interviewed for my new documentary “Flying Man: Life and Times of Johnny Myers.”  Russ was originally from Ohio and his family settled into the Whittier area in the 1920s.  Russ had some great stories about his youth and his family history.  His family were Quaker farmers who raised Russ with tremendous values and integrity.  Russ went to high school with Richard Nixon.  Russ always had interest in economics and political science so he won a scholarship to Pomona College where he was the captain of the track team.  After college Russ went to work for Kidder Peabody investment banking in New York City.  This was in the middle of the Great Depression.  He spent a year working in Switzerland during the late 1930s. Upon returning to the US, he worked for a year with Blue Diamond until the war started.  He served in the US Navy during WWII.  After the war he took a leadership role in Avery Adhesives (later Avery Dennison) where he rose to CEO.  He first met John Myers through John’s lovely wife Lucia.  Over the years John Myers and Russ Smith became close friends.  They were in a lot of clubs together including the California Club and the very exclusive Sunset Club.  Russ told me some great stories about his friendship with John Myers, including some of his fun flying adventures together.  Russ talked about Lucia Myers and her terrific personality and wisdom.  Russ did a fantastic interview and I really appreciate having the opportunity to meet him.  Russ talked about how John Myers was a handshake type of man.  I could see that Russ Smith was that type of man, too.  Russ and I talked about family history and biography.  He showed me two books he had written, one about his life and one about the letters he wrote to his mother throughout his life.  Russ signed his autobiography book and gave it to me.  I am grateful for his generosity.  As I started reading his book I learned how many charities and important causes that Russ has helped over the years and the list is long.  Pomona College.  Childrens Hospital. Philharmonic.  Psoriasis Research. The list goes on.  Russ is an inspiring man in many ways.

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