Lt. Gen. Austin J. Russell, 89, who commanded Air Force units around the world and held senior positions at the Pentagon, died Oct. 4 of complications of kidney failure at Woodbine Home Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Alexandria.
Gen. Russell commanded the 2nd Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana from 1966 to 1969. He was deputy chief of staff for personnel for the Air Force at the Pentagon from 1969 to 1970, when he was named Air Force assistant vice chief of staff.
Born in Monett, Mo., Gen. Russell attended junior college in Missouri and served two years in the Missouri National Guard before entering the U.S. Military Academy. He graduated in 1940 and spent two years with the Army Corps of Engineers.
In 1942, he became a pilot with the Army Air Forces and served in the China-Burma theater during World War II as an operations officer and, later, as commander of the 1st Bombardment Group of the 14th Air Force.
He was first posted to Washington in 1946 and was stationed at the Pentagon when the modern Air Force was created in 1947. He later served as director of personnel at Strategic Air Command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
During the Korean War, Gen. Russell took command of the 307th Bombardment Wing on Okinawa. Counting his service in both World War II and Korea, he flew 29 bombing missions aboard the B-25 and 25 missions in the B-29.
He held a variety of other command positions with SAC throughout the 1950s and 1960s and attended the National War College in Washington. He was the first Air Force general to receive combat qualification to fly the U-2 spy plane. In the early 1970s, he was a military adviser to then-United Nations Ambassador George H.W. Bush.
Gen. Russell retired from the Air Force in 1973. His decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, five awards of the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Air Medals.
After his retirement, he moved to Dallas.
He had lived since 1991 in Alexandria, where he was a member of Belle Haven Country Club and attended St. Mary Catholic Church.
Bernadine Russell, his wife of 47 years, died in 1989. Their daughter Catherine Best died in 2002.
Survivors include his wife of 13 years, Janet Ferrill Russell of Alexandria; three children from the first marriage, Rick Russell of Park City, Utah, Jane Russell of Belmont, N.C., and Julie Grime of Fairfax County; three stepchildren, Jeff Ferrill, Julie Niemann and Ann Lavie, all of Alexandria; a brother; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson.