Russ Murphy was born in Chicago on June 25, 1938 and spent his early years in Chicago, mostly on the south side. He went to Calumet High School and was involved athletically in bowling and shot put. His involvement in Track and Field throwing events was also the beginning of his involved with weight lifting. Russ was both strong and fast. His track once coach ran him against the state record holder in the 100-yard dash. Although he outweighed the sprinter by 100 pounds, Russ lost the race by only 2 steps. Russ worked summers as a guide in Canada, often living totally off the land.
Russ went to the University of Illinois at Chicago for one year and then entered into an apprenticeship program for machinists. In 1961, he received a draft notice, but, after being told that his size—52″ chest, 36″ waist, 270 lbs.—didn’t meet the draft criteria, Russ enlisted in the Air Force. He stayed for 8 years, attended nuclear weapons school at Lowry AFB, and competed in Olympic lifting in the super heavy class.
Russ was the first person in North America to squat 4 times his body weight (1020 lbs). He’s won the Maine and New Hampshire Weightlifting Champions and placed second in the Northeast States Weightlifting Championships. After the Air Force, Russ returned to Colorado and settled in Denver. He went to work for Dow Chemical as a machinist, until he retired 27 years later.
Russ threw the Olympic hammer as a hobby. He got involved in Nike TAC (The Athletic Congress) Masters Throwing. At age 53, he placed third in the USA in the Weight Pentathlon, even though he walked onto the field that day. The Weight Pentathlon is Shot Put, 35lbs. Weight for Distance, Hammer, Discus, and Javelin.
In 1980, one of his Nike TAC friends told him about the Scottish Games in Golden, and Russ went to check it out. Jerry Bradshaw saw him and invited him to compete. In 1981, Russ competed in three games, five games in 1982, and between fifteen and eighteen games a season thereafter. The Masters class didn’t start until 1987 in this region, but Russ still holds field records at some games for the heavy weight for distance. Russ was twice the USA’s top master’s athlete at Santa Rosa, without the benefit of age groups or handicap.
Over the years, Russ took over much of the responsibility of making and fixing RMSA’s equipment. He became known around the country as a superb caber maker, supplying over 300 cabers to various games around the country. There are still Murphy weights being used at many games. Russ competed until 2006, when a hip injury forced him to retire from competition. He continued judging and building cabers until recently.
At the turn of the millennium, Russ dreamed up a unique feat that couldn’t be duplicated for a thousand years. Within 24 hours, Russ became the only person to toss cabers in two millenniums and two centuries in the last time zone of the Southern Hemisphere (New Zealand) and in first time zone of the Northern Hemisphere (Hawaii). If you’ve ever seen the back of the shirt he frequently wears, you are probably aware of this event.
Over the years, Russ became the de-facto ambassador for the RMSA, sharing many ideas and methods developed here around the world. I don’t think we could ever estimate the number of athletes Russ has recruited and coached. Russ was an Athletic Director for at least 8 games and judged at countless others. Russ helped me refine the decathlon scoring system, and he and I spent many a night together during the 1980’s hand writing, printing and mailing the RMSA newsletter.
Russ has one daughter, Dede and one son, Sean—both of whom have competed in the Scottish Athletics.
Russ is synonymous with the RMSA and all it stands for. The RMSA is forever in debt to Russ for what he has given to us and the rest of the world’s throwers. Russ Murphy was inducted into the Rocky Mountain Scottish Athletes Hall of Fame at the Elizabeth Celtic Festival in Elizabeth, Colorado on July 19, 2009.