Russell Pierson at 100
THE VILLAGE, OKLAHOMA—The voice is still clear. “So you want to reminisce a little,” he says. The gaze is straightforward and honest like a firm handshake. With the prompting of a few pictures and pointed questions Russell Pierson can recall all kinds of stories from Oklahoma farms far and wide. “I grew up on that farm and went to school,” he says.
He was born on a Greer County farm ten days before Christmas, 1911. His parents grew cotton and wheat. Pierson still has a picture of himself at age three hugging a dog named Ol’ Tom. He thought he might be a cowboy for a while but he really wanted to be a track coach by the time he left for Oklahoma A and M. Then, on the way to the train station, his father gave him some good advice. “Son, he said, I’d like for you to study to be what Mr. Georgia is.” he recalls. “Mr. Georgia was our county agricultural agent.”
After two weeks at college he switched majors. Russell still ran track and A and M. He won one of the first Tulsa Marathons at age 17, and managed to woo the 1933 Ag Queen Bernice Schraum. “I loved her decidedly, and she loved me,” says Russell of his now departed wife.
Pierson became an Ag extension agent. His 4-H teams won national titles. He didn’t really think about becoming a broadcaster until WKY called out of the blue. “That was not in my ambitions,” he says.
From the mid 50′s to the mid 80′s, almost 30 years, Russell was the first voice people heard on WKY radio and television too. He gave the news and the market reports. He went out and shot stories with Oklahoma farm families by himself. If you were connected to agriculture in those days then you knew who Russell Pierson was. “You became quite well known,” says a visiting reporter. “Really?”, he laughs.
On December 15th Pierson turns 100. but those three digits are just another in a long line. “It doesn’t make you old or decrepit,” he says. “I’m grateful.”