Bemidji native, former Chief Justice Russell Anderson dies at 78

Former Chief Justice Russell Anderson, center is joined from left to right by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, his wife Kristin Anderson, First Lady Gwen Walz and Gov. Tim Walz. Submitted by the Minnesota Judicial Branch's Public Affairs Office.

Former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Russell A. Anderson, a native of Bemidji, has died at the age of 78.

Before becoming chief justice to the state's highest court, Anderson's story began in the First City on the Mississippi. Anderson is originally from Bemidji and graduated from Bemidji High School in 1960.

He served 10 years on the state Supreme Court and 25 years as a judge in Minnesota. He died at home on Tuesday, Sept. 15, surrounded by his wife of 53 years, Kristin Anderson, and other family members.

Anderson was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1998 by Gov. Arne Carlson. He filled the seat vacated by the retirement of Justice Esther Tomljanovich. He was named to the chief position in 2006 by Gov. Tim Pawlenty after Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz left the high court.

Current Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said, “Russ led with integrity, intelligence, and thoughtfulness, and his judicial career was only paralleled by his many civic contributions,” Gildea said in a written statement Thursday. “He was a humble leader, a close mentor to me, and an inspiration to many who now carry his lessons of respect and humanity forward in their careers.”


Anderson was a private practice attorney in Bemidji and was Beltrami County Attorney before joining the Ninth Judicial District Court bench, where he also served as chief judge until his appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

He received his law degree from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Laws from George Washington University. He was a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps of the U.S. Navy in Washington D.C.

Dennis Doeden, former publisher of the Bemidji Pioneer, is a feature reporter. He is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a degree in Communications Management.
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