Yale University

In Memoriam

Russell Byers

Philly Journalist Stabbed to Death

Philadelphia Daily News
December 5, 1999

Russell Byers
1964 graduation

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Philadelphia Daily News columnist known for his hard-hitting commentaries on urban issues was stabbed to death outside a convenience store by a man demanding money, authorities said Sunday.

W. Russell G. Byers, 59, and his wife, Laurada Beacham, had just bought a pint of ice cream at a market near his home in the city's Chestnut Hill section Saturday night when the suspect yelled "Give it up," referring to their wallets, police said.

Byers was stabbed once in the chest after he pushed the robber away from his wife, police said.

The suspect fled empty-handed, while Byers managed to stagger inside the store, where he told clerks to call police and then collapsed on the floor, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Byers' colleagues said Sunday that as a columnist, he hated to give in to urban crime.

"Russell cared more about the future of the city of Philadelphia, and did more to try to influence it in a positive way, than anybody else I know. So this act of violence is also directed at the entire city," said Zack Stalberg, the paper's editor.

"Russell was not a journalist first, he was really a citizen of Philadelphia first. He cared about public life and public policy. He worked harder than anyone here," Stalberg said.

Byers, a Yale graduate, came late in life to journalism. He spent many years in the public sector, working as Philadelphia regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and as an aide to City Councilman Thacher Longstreth.

Those experiences were brought to bear on the urban issues column he wrote two to four times a week for the last 10 years.

His coworkers said the he wrote most passionately about how government spends taxpayer money on schools and housing. In his most recent article last Tuesday, he wrote that Philadelphia should hire a citywide housing czar to "ruthlessly eliminate the bureaucratic boondoggles."

Remembrance of Russell Byers at our 40th Reunion

by Jay Huffard

William Russell Grace Byers was a quiet, constructive, even elegant member of the Class of '64. Russ was immediately recognized by all who knew him, at Yale and throughout his life, as a true gentleman.

His life ended violently on July 4th, 1999.

The irony and tragedy of Russell's death is that, as a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, he was known for his hard-hitting commentaries on how to improve inner-city life in the city he loved. This gentle man was stabbed to death outside a convenience store, near his home, where he had stopped to buy a pint of ice cream. A would be robber, who became a murderer, fled empty handed ― without a penny ― while Russell bled to death. This, for having protected his wife, who was waiting for him in their car.

Russ is survived by his wife, Laurada, and two grown children, Russell and Allison. His many friends, his family, and those in the city of Philadelphia, know that he did make a difference!