A. H. Russakoff

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A. H. Russakoff

Abraham Hyman Russakoff (born May 13, 1915 in Skowhegan, Maine; died December 26, 1993) was a pulmonologist, educator and environmental activist.

Russakoff, the son of Russian immigrants, worked his way through college and medical school as a professional trumpet player, including stints as an extra in the Benny Goodman band.

He came to Alabama to head the Alabama Department of Public Health's tuberculosis control division shortly after World War II. He moved to Birmingham in 1946 to accept a professorship at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He served as chair of the school's pulmonary department, and also founded a large private practice, Pulmonary Medicine Associates of the Southeast.

Russakoff's research established clear evidence that air pollution near the Birmingham District's steel mills increased the risk of lung disorders thirty-fold over those living south of Red Mountain. He was made chair of the Jefferson County Medical Society's Air Pollution Committee in 1967. Over the next years he communicated his findings and his concerns about children's lung development in particular to civic groups, and in testimony to the Alabama State Legislature that prompted Chriss Doss and Ben Erdreich to sponsor state laws curbing air pollution. He was also active with the Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution which organized public demonstrations opposing air pollution. His appearance and speech during "Right to Live Week" on Earth Day 1970 inspired rousing ovations.

Russakoff continued playing trumpet as a hobby and was a member of the Birmingham Community Jazz Band and founded his own group, The Improvisations. He was a supporter of the Friends of Miles College, taught English to Russian speakers, and was a member of the Highland Racquet Club.

Russakoff died in 1993 of pneumonia caused by Legionnaire's disease. He was survived by his wife Irene, two children, and three grandchildren. His funeral was held at Temple Emanu-El and he was buried at Elmwood Cemetery. The "A. H. Russakoff Air Pollution Files" are held at the Birmingham Public Library Archives.


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