Russell Yarbrough

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Russell Melvin Yarbrough (born January 11, 1916 in Turner County, Georgia; died January 19, 2013) was an executive of the Yarbrough Motor Company and a Birmingham City Council member from 1969 to 1989.

Yarbrough was the son of William Powell and Eva Lee Yarbrough. The family moved to Birmingham when Russell was 11 years old, and he attended North Birmingham School for three years. During the Great Depression he dropped out to help support his family by working at his father's auto repair shop. He soon found employment at Al Dement Chevrolet and remained with them for over twenty years, eventually becoming vice president and general manager.

In 1954 Yarbrough returned to his family's business, helping run and expand the Yarbrough Motor Company until his retirement. Throughout his career, Bull Connor relied on Yarbrough for guidance regarding North Birmingham matters.

Yarbrough ran for an at-large term on the Birmingham City Council in 1969 and, as the last place winner was given a two-year term of office. He was re-elected to full four-year terms in 1971, 1975, 1979, and 1983.

During his time on the Council, Yarbrough was a long-time chair of the Public Safety Committee where he waged a long battle against adult novelty stores. In 1979 he filed a federal lawsuit, Yarbrough et al v. City of Birmingham, aimed at preserving minority (white) political representation in an increasingly African-American city. As a result of the suit, a court ordered the city to elect Council representatives by district, beginning with the 1989 Birmingham municipal election.

Yarbrough died in 2013 and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.


  • Connor, Bull (January 27, 1961) letter to Harold C. Martin in the Theophilus Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor Collection at Birmingham Public Library Archives
  • "Russell Melvin Yarbrough" obituary (January 22, 2013) The Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (January 23, 2013) "Longtime Birmingham City Councilman Russell Yarbrough laid to rest today." The Birmingham News