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Simpson, Russell on Hall of Fame Ballot

July 06, 2010

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Jim Simpson, chief executive officer of the world-famous Hanover Shoe Farms and a player in many of harness racing’s major current projects, and Walter Russell, son of Hall of Fame horseman Sanders Russell who earned respect throughout the racing industry for the professional standards he set as a judge, have been selected to appear on the final voting ballot for entrance into the Living Hall of Fame.

The selections of Simpson and Russell were made by the Hall of Fame Screening Committee of the U.S. Harness Writers Association, from nominations by USHWA chapters, in conjunction with an Advisory Committee of Hall of Famers who are trustees of the Hall and Harness Racing Museum. The groups met this past weekend in Goshen NY, during the weekend of ceremonies honoring this year’s entrants to the Hall – notably Hal Jones, Dave Palone, and Communicators Murray Brown and
Jim Moran.

It must be stressed, due to prior confusion, that Simpson and Russell are NOT automatically Living Hall of Famers by being placed on the ballot. They, along with Communicators Corner nominees Gary Seibel and the late Joe Hartmann, must get 75% of the yes-no votes of the members of USHWA in an election to be conducted next month; previously-named Hall of Famers also have a vote in their category.

Simpson, son of Hall of Famer John Simpson Sr. and brother of Hall of Famer John Simpson Jr., has certainly carved out his own niche of distinction after trading a seat in the sulky, where he trained and drove world champions, for full-time work overseeing the vast Hanover empire. Hanover has been the #1 breeder in harness racing since statistics were begun to be kept, a tradition Jim Simpson has helped keep going by wise acquisition of top broodmares and some of the sport’s best stallions; Simpson also lends his expertise to the board of the Hambletonian Society, a meeting of which he has not missed in 17 ½ years, and to racing matters in his home state of Pennsylvania, which has been the recent talk of the industry through revitalization by alternative gaming, a revival Simpson both helped formulate and on which he is still an important advisor.

“Judge” Russell may have been the man Teddy Roosevelt was thinking of when he said “Speak softly, but carry a big stick.” An erudite Ph.D. in American Literature and a knowledgeable discusser of most any topic under the sun, Russell’s particular genius was his ability to have carefully thought out positions, yet be able to clearly convey them, in modulated tones backed by an iron will, to the horsemen who raced under him, and with a urgent sense of no mercy shown for violators. Meticulous in the judges stand and a hawk of attention during hearings (to store away information for future situations), Russell had the respect of all the giants among his peers, including Jim Lynch (a Hall of Famer) and Milt Taylor.

As noted, the balloting for this quartet will take place during August, and the results announced in early to mid-September. Should they be successful, the new Hall Of Famers will be formally inducted into the Hall on the first Sunday in July of 2011. (USHWA)

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