At 104, Russell still getting license renewed

Published 3:00 am Thursday, January 17, 2019

In January 2015, Obie Russell told Tollie Folmar in the Pike County Probate Office that he would be back to get his driver’s license renewed in four years.

Folmar hears “See you in four years” often when she snaps a photo for a driver’s license, but Russell was unlike most others she photographs. Russell had just celebrated his 100th birthday in the year 2015.

If Folmar was surprised Wednesday when Russell walked in to get his license renewed, it didn’t show. She welcome Russell and wished him a “Happy Birthday,” his 104th.

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But Russell was quick to say that he will not be behind the wheel anymore. He leaves the driving to others, mainly his niece, Cathy McKinney, who “chauffeured” him from his home in Briar Hill to the Pike County Courthouse to get his driver’s license renewed.

“I need a driver’s license for identification,” Russell explained, with a smile. But those who know “Uncle Obie,” as all his friends and acquaintances call him, would not be surprised if he needs an ID for some great adventure he has not experienced. Who else flies a plane at age 100? Surely, there will be an encore.

Bystanders wanted to know the difference between the time Russell got his first driver’s license and the one he had just received.

“Paved roads,” Russell said, with a twinkle in his eyes.

Russell said the first thing he drove was a mule and wagon. The first car he remembers was a 1925 Ford that cranked by turning a crank on the front of the car.

“There was a lever you had to pull to keep the car from jumping at you when it cranked,” he said. “The car had a kerosene tail light that you had to strike a match to light.”

The headlights came on only when the car was running.

“And, the faster you drove, the brighter the lights would get.”

Back in those days, nobody had to have a license. They just drove,” he said.

The first time Russell got behind the wheel, legally, was at Fort Benning, Georgia.

“I heard Gen. George Patton give his ‘Blood and Guts’ speech as the soldiers marched off to war.” Russell said. 

In all of his driving years, Russell had only had one road accident.

He worked for a sawmill and was hauling a load of logs up around Montgomery. The truck and train collided.

“I didn’t hit the train,” Russell said. “The train hit me.”

Russell has lots of stories and he enjoys telling them all. He has 104 years of life experiences to share and not many people are blessed to live that long.

“I have been really blessed,” Russell said. “I’ve had a good life and I still enjoy every day.”

And, Wednesday was a special day. It was the day Obie Russell got “renewed.”

He waved around the courthouse and smiled when others said, “See you in four years!”