Louie C. Russell, believed to be the last person in New York State to pass the bar exam without attending law school, died Thursday in George Washington Hospital, Washington, D.C., after a brief illness. He was 66.
Born in Jamestown, he was a graduate of Jamestown High School, attended the University at Buffalo and traveled, ending up in New York City, where he operated a bookstore in Manhattan.
More interested in reading books than selling them, his daughter Margot said, he returned to Buffalo and decided to study law by reading law books and working as a clerk for the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo.
New York was the last state to allow candidates for the bar to clerk for law firms and learn the law outside of formal law school enrollment, and it made law school mandatory after Mr. Russell became a lawyer.
An attorney for Legal Aid from 1976 to 1994, he campaigned tirelessly for children's rights and frequently took his young clients into his Amherst home.
In 1993, he was instrumental in sparking an investigation of the old state youth residential center on Best Street after a 17-year-old inmate showed up in court with bruises and cuts from a beating by four guards.
Mr. Russell was the boy's law guardian, and a call to the state's child-abuse hotline led to a grand jury investigation, indictments and suspensions.
When he left Legal Aid, he backpacked around the world for two years, visiting 66 countries, then volunteered for the Peace Corps. He served in Ukraine in the port of Yalta, using his legal expertise to negotiate shipping treaties with Russia and other countries.
Returning to the United States, he settled in Washington, D.C., where he was instrumental in restoring an antique clock tower on a Unitarian Church.
Survivors include his wife, the former Ada Pristupa; two sons, David of Amherst and Mark of Boston, Mass.; two daughters, Margot Russell-Reich of Cape Cod, Mass., and Ana of Washington, D.C.; and nine grandchildren.
Services will be at noon Tuesday in Amigone Funeral Home, 1132 Delaware Ave. Burial in Jamestown will be arranged.