A consequence of gaining in years – is that if you are lucky enough to live long enough, you see more and more of your friends pass away. It’s looking like that kind of year for me. Last Sunday, Cliff Russell, my friend and host with me of Law and Reality Now passed away while on the road in Chicago for a Detroit Titan Basketball game. Cliff was a special man. He was a native Detroiter, Wayne State graduate (like myself), and he had a terrific career as a community leader in Metro Detroit. He was an athlete, musician, press secretary for Dennis Archer, director of communications for the Tigers and a loved radio personality. His credentials, however, don’t tell the story.
Cliff loved life – his wife, his kids, grandkids and family, radio, the Titans, the people he worked with, his listeners – everyone. When you’d see him – he’d stand and greet you with and embrace and when you left he did the same. Not once or twice, not on occasion – every single time. His personality was magic and his passion for Detroit and for right vs. wrong rang true in everything he did and stood for. When the Flint water crisis hit, off Cliff went to Flint to broadcast his show and within days, he was up to speed on all the facts of what happened – and who failed to act and protect the people – and he did not hesitate for a second to call them out on it. He did so in straight talk – factually supported and straight to the point.
My time with Cliff was always special. We were close in age and former WSU Tartars (that is what a WSU grad used to be). The fun part was that we came together on a radio show – with me being the “white” guy from the suburbs and Cliff the “black” guy from the Detroit. We jelled immediately for a simple reason – while diverse in some ways, we saw the world the same – and both felt compelled to speak our minds about it.
The expressions of loss from Cliff’s listeners this week tells the story. Countless callers said the same, “I didn’t know Cliff, but I feel the same as if I lost a friend.” The reason is simple, Cliff was that friend — he set the standard so high that a personal acquaintance – was simply not necessary.
Farewell friend. Thank you for everything. We will miss you forever.