Niles “Nicky” Russell passed away July 2 at age 60. He is survived by his wife and the woman of his dreams, Janet Reiter; his sisters, Merrilyn, Nadine and Pam; his sons, Dartagnan Jami and Lancelot William, his nieces, Jala and Zara; Skye and Lana; brother-in-law Abel Fabri, nephews Jason and Jonathan and numerous other family members and his favorite kitty, Baby.
Born in Austin, Texas, on October 29, 1949, he moved with his family along the Gulf Coast to Florida and Key West. The family moved to St. Thomas in 1961. His father, Edgar, with a variety of talents such as engineering, construction and architecture, built many schools and large projects here on St. Thomas. He was also a professional magician, having worked with well-known magicians the world over. He passed in 1965. His mother, Joan, was Edgar’s magic assistant during WWII and they married in 1946. The couple is remembered as bowling champions of the V.I. until Edgar’s death.
Nicky attended and graduated from All Saints School and was a member of Boy Scout Troop 156. As a boy here on St. Thomas, he and a group of students were remarkably responsible for starting a flag-football league including finding the coaches, referees and players. He played in the first organized football game in the Virgin Islands. He raced motorcycles in Bovoni and in college and had over 50 of them throughout the years. He was an all-American dart and pool champion here in the Virgin Islands.
He studied radio and TV at University of Houston, as well as, many other institutions of higher learning.
He returned to the Virgin Islands and embarked upon a 26-year radio career. He progressed from being a weekend announcer through every facet of the broadcast industry to General Sales and Station Manager of Radio One. He won numerous awards for his commercials and broadcasts. He is remembered for his Carnival Parade coverage. He was always community-minded and his on-air antics benefitted many charities like the weight-loss competition with Brownie that benefitted the United Way.
He is most widely known as the “Mighty Whitey” for his entry in the Calypso Tents of 1977 and 1978. Both years he came in second but many recall that he won!! The Mighty Sparrow was on the judging panel one year and remarked to Nicky that “he clearly won.” His songs that have remained favorites are Tonight I Wearin’ De Crown and Move Your Mudda Ass.
Nicky learned guitar from Dotty Fabian at age 16 and never stopped playing, singing and entertaining his friends, the people of St. Thomas, as well as, the visitors from around the globe.
He opened for and toured with the Mighty Sparrow, Lord Nelson, King Shortshirt, King Swallow, John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, Donovan, Richie Havens, the Beach Boys and countless others. He played numerous benefits for persons, causes and charities and was a charter member of October Sunday (which today benefits Family Resource Center). He was voted Entertainer of the Year twice by the Daily News Poll. Visitors and locals alike would flock to see his shows year after year as he could tell jokes and stories of St. Thomas like no one else. His tape and CD "Tourist Tracks" was a best seller. Others include "A Steel Pan Christmas" and "Mighty Whitey LIVE."
He was a charter member of the Advertising Club of the Virgin Islands and a Rotarian for many years. He played at almost every Chili Cookoff. He also played at and attended every St. Thomas Bacchanal, held each year up in Florida around Carnival time.
In 2006, he unsuccessfully threw his hat in the ring for a Democratic senate seat. His desire to help the Virgin Islands had never been quashed. His committee will always remember the fundraisers at restaurant/entertainment venues as opposed to the traditional Fort Christian Parking Lot Fish Fry. His outrage at the amount of grant dollars returned for lack of timely usage, especially in the areas of education, broke his heart and inspired his decision to run.
You may recall the big party at Tickles celebrating 40 years of entertaining a few years back. Going back, there was the Foolish Virgin Bar, Drake’s Inn, Bryan’s Bar, Sparky’s, the Sandbox, Fat City, Tinkers, Barnacle Bill’s, Bartolino’s, The Dove, Raffles, Molly Malones, Latitude 18, Tickles, Pirates Cove, Bottoms Up, Hull Bay Hideaway and Magens Point, Mahogany Run, Bolongo, Lime Tree, Sapphire, Pineapple Beach, Frenchmans Reef, The Ritz, the Renaissance and virtually every resort, club and restaurant on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. That’s a lot of singing… and what a voice, as evidenced by his quintessential radio-voice for years on Island Finance commercials.
Please join his family and friends at Magens Bay for Nicky’s Celebration Of Life, on Sunday, July 18 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., to remember one of the best lives ever lived and the passing of an era here on St. Thomas.