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Portland First Citizen Award


Bill Russell, 2018

William (Bill) Russell is the Executive Director of Union Gospel Mission (UGM) and the co-founder of the LifeChange addiction recovery community. LifeChange is a faith-based and long-term recovery program that has been nationally recognized. Bill has been with UGM since 1989.

Bill grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area with middle-class parents who taught him the value of hard work. His father was a teamster and his mother an executive secretary for the accountant of Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

Bill worked a variety of jobs and started a rock band in 1971 that helped get him through college. The band is still together in Montana and Bill joins other musicians for reunion tours under the name “Bobby Joe Russell and the All Stars” in California.

In college, Bill became an intern and then the director of a legal aid operated by California Rural Legal Assistance. This inspired Bill to attend law school at the University of Idaho. He started his career as a lawyer in Lewiston, Idaho. After his conversion to Christianity in 1979, he became a deputy prosecutor for Nez Perce County, Idaho, working as the civil deputy, focusing on juvenile crime and child protective work, and serving as the County Attorney.

In 1982, Bill met Chuck Colson at the Idaho Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. Colson invited Russell to quit the practice of law and join his nonprofit, Prison Fellowship, to serve as an area director in the Northwest. Bill helped develop correctional volunteer programs for Prison Fellowship in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from 1982 to 1989.

In 1989, the leadership of Union Gospel Mission needed to transition from traditional skid row relief focused on older alcoholic men to effective recovery for younger men and women who were drug or alcohol addicted. The Mission needed to blend spiritual transformation with work training, and deep addiction recovery.

As a deputy prosecutor and a correctional chaplain, Bill saw substance abuse devastate families and the community. As a recovering alcoholic, he held out hope that people can get well.

He came to Union Gospel Mission as Program Director in 1989 to establish LifeChange – a unique recovery community of UGM that utilizes responsibility-based recovery.

He became the Executive Director in 1998. Under his leadership, LifeChange has grown to provide residential faith-based recovery for 38 women and children at a center opened in 2013 in Beaverton. The downtown Portland men’s center now provides over 50 men full-time work, mental health and addiction recovery counseling, spiritual formation, and life skills training. LifeChange aftercare services ensure that every graduate finds quality employment, housing and ongoing group support.

UGM has stretched its purpose of feeding the hungry to serve 250,000 nutritious meals a year to Portland’s most poor homeless.

After learning of a similar program in Seattle, Bill championed the launch of UGM’s “Search + Rescue” – a new program that visits homeless encampments 5 nights a week, and provides follow-up counseling and transportation to those wanting to exit homelessness.

Search + Rescue is bringing men and women off the streets day by day and helping place them in detox, shelters, recovery, and housing programs. Bill’s hope is that UGM can facilitate the formation of private-public partnerships in every neighborhood in the Portland Metro area to provide a continuum of care in each area, and eliminate illegal, unsafe and unsanitary camps that erode livability and property values.

Bill and his wife Tamara have raised four daughters. They attend THE WELL church in Northeast Portland.

The Portland First Citizen Award was created in 1928 by the Portland Realty Board (now PMAR) to honor civic achievements and business leadership within the community. It is considered one of Portland’s most prestigious awards, and the individuals who have received it form an honor roll of the city’s most prominent leaders during the last eight decades.

In addition to the Portland First Citizen Award, two other awards will be presented at the banquet. The Portland Future First Citizen Award recognizes a high school student in the Portland metropolitan area who is a model of civic responsibility and provides a $5,000 scholarship toward the recipient’s higher education. And, the PMAR Good Neighbor Award recognizes a Realtor® for his or her extraordinary commitment to improving the quality of life in the community with a $1,000 contribution to the recipient’s charity of choice.

To purchase tickets, click here.

2018 Sponsors




Thank you to our Platinum Sponsors: The Oregonian and the Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS™).

Past Portland First Citizens

1928 Ben Selling 1973 Howard Vollum
1929 J. C. Ainsworth 1974 William E. Roberts
1930 Aaron M. Frank 1975 Fred G. Meyer
1931 Henry B. Van Duzer 1976 Larry Hilaire
1932 Raymond B. Wilcox 1977 Louis B. Perry
1933 George L. Baker 1978 Edith Green
1934 Hopkin Jenkins 1979 David Edwin Abram
1935 Edward C. Sammons 1980 William Swindells, Sr.
1936 Arthur L. Fields 1981 Judge Harlow F. Lenon
1937 Richard B. Dillehunt, M.D. 1982 Samuel T. Naito & William S. Naito
1938 Franklin T. Griffith 1983 Carl M. Halvorson
1939 Charles H. Martin 1984 Bishop Paul D. Waldschmidt
1940 Ross McIntyre 1985 John Piacentini
1941 Mrs. Thomas D. Honeyman 1986 Dr. Albert Starr
1942 Edgar F. Kaiser 1987 Robert L. Ridgley
1943 Portland Service Men/Women 1988 Don C. Frisbee
1944 Mrs. C.S. Jackson 1989 Melvin ‘Pete’ Mark
1945 Theodore R. Gamble 1990 Harry L. Demorest
1946 Chester A. Moores 1991 Dr. Matthew W. Prophet, Jr.
1947 Sid Woodbury 1992 Harry Glickman
1948 Hillman Lueddemann 1993 John ‘Jack’ Faust
1949 Thomas Harry Banfield 1994 Maestro Jacob Avshalomov
1950 David B. Simpson 1995 Harold & Arlene Schnitzer
1951 Frank Erwin McCaslin 1996 Fred A. Stickel
1952 Edgar William Smith 1998 Brian & Gwyneth Booth
1953 C.B. Stephenson 1999 Dr. Robert B. Pamplin, Jr.
1954 Ben H. Hazen 2000 Peter E. Jacobsen
1955 Dr. Morgan S. Odell 2002 Senator Mark O. Hatfield
1956 Harold Fox Wendell 2003 Tony L. Hopson, Sr.
1957 Rt. Rev. Benjamin Dagwell 2004 Dan Wieden
1958 William Bruce Boone 2005 Gert Boyle
1959 Paul Boole McKee 2006 Jack McGowan
1960 Dr. Leo Sherman Lucas 2007 Peggy Fowler
1961 Dr. Samuel Latta Diack 2008 Joe Weston
1962 Truman Wesley Collins 2009 Bill Schonely
1963 Judge Donald E. Long 2010 Brian J. Druker, MD
1964 Charles R. Holloway, Jr. 2011 Mercy Corps
1965 Aubrey R. Watzek 2012 Duncan Campbell
1966 Mrs. S. Mason Ehrman 2013 Jean DeMaster
1967 John M. Fulton 2014 George “Bing” Sheldon
1968 John D. Gray 2015  Mark and Ann Edlen
1969 Homer T. Shaver 2016  Karen Fishel and Barb Attridge
1970 Judge Gus J. Solomon 2017  Stephen Gomez
1971 Glenn Jackson 2018  William ‘Bill’ Russell
1972 Ira C. Keller