On Tuesday, August 2, 2016, Alfred Ely Beach High School held the “Building Dedication” ceremony of the Russell Ellington Athletic Complex. The complex is located on the school campus at 3001 Hopkins St. in Savannah.
Many of Russell Ellington’s family and friends gathered for this historic occasion, including his wife Betty Ellington, sisters, children and grandchildren.
Mr. Derrick Muhammad, Principal of Beach High School and Dr. Thomas Lockamy, Jr., Superintendent of Schools participated in this memorable dedication ceremony. Other participants included Rev. Quentin J. Morris, Sr., Coach Ronald Booker, Rev. Wilson Scott, former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson, Dr. Ann Levett, Billy Kearse, Lawrence Hutchins, Dr. Charles Elmore along with several elected officials.
Russell Ellington is a 1956 graduate of A. E. Beach High School. He was an academic All-American in football and in basketball at Morris Brown College in Atlanta., graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology, with a minor in chemistry, in 1960. He did further studies at University of Georgia and Georgia Southern University.
Ellington was a standout player for Beach High School and Morris Brown College. Ellington played professional football for the New York Giants for two years before his career was interrupted because of injuries.
Ellington began his coaching career at Beach High School (1962-1976). He was the Beach High School, boys’ basketball coach for 15 years, winning 482 of 529 games he coached. His teams won five state championships including the Georgia High School Association Class AAA State Championships during the first season following integration of the Georgia High School Association, 1966–67, the first season black players were allowed to compete. That 1967 team earned the Sports Illustrated magazine national championship.
As Savannah State College’s men’s head basketball coach (1976-1984). Ellington compiled a 148-91 record (.619 winning percentage). During that time he also was the school’s athletics director and a mathematics teacher, overseeing the school’s transition from NCAA Division III to Division II in 1981. He currently holds the record for most wins by a men’s basketball coach in Savannah State’s history, producing winning records in the final eight of his nine seasons and winning three Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season and tournament title during his tenure.
Ellington toured with the Globetrotters as head coach from 1984–93, traveling to 122 countries with the team.
Ellington returned to Savannah in 1993 to serve as the first men’s head basketball coach and athletics director at Savannah Technical School (College). The team eventually made an appearance in the National Junior College playoffs in Kansas City, Missouri.
Ellington returned as the men’s head basketball coach and athletic director at his alma mater, Morris Brown College, in 1997-2001
Ellington returned to coaching in 2005 at Beach High School 2005- 2007 with a 28-3 record.
He is a member of the Morris Brown College Hall of Fame (1978). In 1980, he was inducted into the Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame. He also is a member of the Beach High School Hall of Fame (1987) and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Hall of Fame (1997). Ellington was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame on May 19, 2007.
Ellington passed away on September 1, 2007 at the age of 69. He was married to Betty W. Ellington for thirty years; they had six children. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum Board of Directors, the Board of Directors for the West Broad Street YMCA (Savannah, Georgia), the Georgia High School Sports Association, and the South Eastern Quarter Back Club.