Capt. George Russell Crofton, Jr., known to all as “Russell,” passed away at home on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, after a battle with cancer.
The affable Crofton became the first St. George Islander to win a countywide seat when he secured the August 2004 Democratic nomination in a four-man field. He then went on to win the general election against a Republican challenger and two men running without party affiliation.
Crofton served a single term, including a stint as chair of the county commission, before losing in the 2008 general election.
“He was a well-rounded guy, I really liked Russell,” said former county commissioner Jimmy Mosconis, who sat to Crofton’s left on the podium.
“I thoroughly enjoyed working with him,” said Mosconis. “He was real frugal with our tax money, and he cared about the county and the community. He was real mindful of people’s taxes and the cost of government. I was real fortunate during my tenure. He was real good to work with along those lines.”
Crofton was born Oct. 31, 1941 at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., while his father was stationed at Fort McPherson. The senior Crofton had been born in Vernon at Hinson’s Crossroads, one of 14 children, all of whom grew up in north Florida.
Russell Jr. grew up in Coral Gables, graduated from Coral Gables High School in 1959 and attended the University of Florida, graduating in 1963 with a bachelor of science in geology.
He served in the South Florida Coast Guard Search and Rescue Unit from 1964-68 and the reserves for two more years. He received his pilot’s license during that time and began flying international cargo planes for Rich International Airways out of Miami in the late 60s.
Russell flew for Northeast Airlines, which merged with Delta, and he moved to Atlanta. He embarked upon a distinguished 32-year career with Delta, retiring as a captain on the MD-11 in Oct. 2001. For many years, Russell served as an officer with the Airline Pilots Association, International (ALPA) and was a member of the board of directors for six years, representing 50,000 pilots and serving as a mediator. He also was a member of the Apalachicola/Franklin County Regional Airport Advisory Committee.
He was a volunteer firefighter in Fulton County, Ga., and a Boy Scout master.
Russell and his father began fishing in Franklin County in 1975 and built a small house on St. George Island in 1977. He retired from Delta in 2001 and moved to the island house that year.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Beverly W. and Lt. Col. George Russell Crofton, Sr.
He is survived by three children, a son-in-law and three grandchildren, all of Tucker, Ga: Grayson B. Crofton and daughter Haley; Elizabeth W. Crofton; Sara Crofton Henderson, husband Chris Henderson and sons Sam and Will; and by a sister, Annette C. Cowart of Gainesville.
Russell was known for his sense of humor. He was an avid fisherman and a lover of the outdoors and Franklin County’s natural environment. He had a penchant for collecting unusual items (nuts and bolts, keys, metal signs).
He leaves behind many well-loved friends and relatives; the family wishes to thank two special friends, Susan Gary and Connie Dehner, for their amazing care and support. The family also wishes to thank Big Bend Hospice for their wonderful work and expertise.
Russell chose to be cremated, and a private family memorial service will be held at a later date. Anyone wishing to make a meaningful contribution in Russell’s name may donate to one of several organizations that Russell faithfully supported, including Apalachicola Riverkeeper (www.apalachicolariverkeeper.org), University of Florida Foundation (www.uff.ufl.edu), or Phi Delta Theta Foundation (www.phideltathetafoundation.org)