Russell D. Oliver
Date of birth: July 20, 1910(1910-07-20)
Place of birth: Pontiac, Michigan
Date of death: December 19, 1974(1974-12-19) (aged 64)
Place of death: South Bend, Indiana
Career information
Position(s): Fullback
College: Michigan
 As player:
1932–1934 Michigan Wolverines

Russell Dwight "Russ" Oliver (July 20, 1910 – December 19, 1974) was an American athlete and coach who played and coached football, baseball, and basketball. He played college football, baseball, and basketball at the University of Michigan and coached those sports at Culver Military Academy from 1935 to 1968, with a four-year interruption for military service during World War II.

Early yearsEdit

Oliver was born in Pontiac, Michigan, and graduated from Pontiac High School in 1929. He was coached in football at Pontiac by Charles Weldon, who had been the high school football coach to Red Grange. In 1927, Weldon proclaimed the 16-year-old Oliver to be the "second Red Grange."[1][2]

He enrolled at the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, where he played football, basketball, and baseball, competed in varsity shell crew, and was the academy's heavyweight boxing champion.[3] He was voted by his fellow cadets as the "Best All-Around Athlete."

University of MichiganEdit

Oliver next enrolled at the University of Michigan. He was a fullback on Michigan's undefeated national championship teams of 1932 and 1933. He also played at quarterback in 1934.[4] As a sophomore in 1932, he began the season as the Wolverines' starting fullback, but he sustained a fractured rib in late October 1932. The injury did not appear serious at first, but the rib snapped while Oliver was punting during practice on October 26, 1932.[5][6] He was a teammate of Gerald Ford on Michigan's football teams from 1932 to 1934. While at Michigan, he was also the captain of the baseball team and was the fourth student at Michigan to win nine varsity letters in three major sports.[7] (Bennie Oosterbaan and Harry Kipke also won nine letters in football, baseball, and basketball.) Oliver was also the freshman golf champion at Michigan.[3]

Culver Military AcademyEdit

After graduating from Michigan in 1935, he returned to the Culver Military Academy where he worked for nearly 40 years. He was the head coach of the school's teams in football (1935–1941, 1946–1968), baseball (1935–1941, 1946–1961), and basketball (1935–1941, 1946–1961).[8][9] He was a major in the United States Army during World War II, serving with the Second Engineer Amphibious Brigade in the Pacific Theater of Operations from July 1942 to 1946. After retiring as a head coach in 1968, he continued to serve as the academy's director of alumni affairs.[8][3] Oliver compiled a career record of 152–90–13 as the head football coach at Culver Military Academy.[10] His record as the academy's coach in other sports was 211–137 in basketball and 105–76 in baseball.[11] In 1994, he was posthumously inducted into the Culver Military Academy Athletic Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class.[12] The academy's football field is named Oliver Field in tribute to Oliver.[13]

Death and legacyEdit

He died of cancer at South Bend Memorial Hospital in December 1974.[3][8] He was posthumously inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in August 1985.[14]

Personal lifeEdit

Oliver married Myra E. (Powrie) Oliver in 1937. She died in December 2009.[15] They had two sons, Bruce I. Oliver and Russell D. Oliver, Jr.[8]


  1. "Second Grange Is Discovered: Coach Weldon Has Real Star in Russell Oliver of Pontiac". Spokane Daily Chronicle. November 5, 1927.,988198&dq=russell+oliver&hl=en.
  2. "Hopes To Get New Grange: Coach Who Developed Red Thinks Russ Oliver Has the Goods". Providence News. October 29, 1927.,1817499&dq=russell+oliver&hl=en.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Culver's Russ Oliver, Ford teammate, dies". The Rochester Sentinel (AP story). December 20, 1974.,5469037&dq=russell+oliver+culver&hl=en.
  4. "1934 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  5. "Russ Oliver Suffers Fractured Rib and May Be Out for Season". The Owosso Argus-Press (AP story). October 26, 1932.,506481&dq=russ-oliver&hl=en.
  6. "Michigan Loses Oliver". The New York Times: p. 21. October 26, 1932.
  7. "Culver Coach Off To Army: Lieut. R. D. Oliver Leaves for Camp Edwards". Warsaw Daily Times: p. 5. July 15, 1942.,4648455&dq=russell+oliver+culver&hl=en.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Russell D. Oliver, 64, Dies; Ford Teammate at Michigan". The New York Times. December 21, 1974.
  9. "Russ Oliver Completes 25 Years As Coach; No Retirement In Offing". The Culver Citizen. November 18, 1964.
  10. "All-Time Indiana Football Coaching Wins". Indiana Football Coaches Association. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  11. "Description for item "ath-foo-0015"". Culver Military Academy. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  12. "Russell D. Oliver - Faculty Profile". Culver Military Academy Alumni Class of 1957. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  13. "Culver Academy Eagles Football". Northern Indiana Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  14. "Indiana Football Hall of Fame: Russell D. Oliver". Indiana Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  15. "Myra E. Oliver". Fort Wayne News Sentinel. December 22, 2009.

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