Staff and friends of Knox County Schools lost a real ally last week with the passing of William R. “Russ” Oaks, 64. He had retired during the last school year, leaving without much noise. He died at his home in Andersonville, Tennessee, unexpectedly on August 16, 2023.
Russ decided to join the military when he was 10 after seeing the movie “Patton” with his dad, according to his obituary. He graduated from Halls High School and the University of Tennessee, majoring in history and taking ROTC. He was commissioned a U.S. Army Armor officer after college graduation. He rose to be lieutenant colonel before retiring after 20 years. He came to Knox County School in 2001 after leaving his last assignment, The Pentagon.
His friend Scott Bacon picks up the story in a heartfelt Facebook post:
I will never forget walking upstairs from a meeting down on the first floor of the Andrew Johnson Building on September 11, 2001. I had gone into the meeting at about 8:50 and came out around 10:15. The world had literally changed while I was meeting about something that suddenly was not important.
“I could tell when I walked up to the door to his office that something BIG was happening. Russ and I sat together in his office for periods of time throughout the day watching news reports. The fact that the Pentagon was hit was obviously something very personal for him because he knew people still serving there. In fact, he was very familiar with the area of the Pentagon that was hit.
“Russ brought a strong skill set to the table that helped our district,” Scott wrote. “We were better through his efforts.”
Like his rise in the military, Russ rose at KCS. He started in public relations and retired as chief operating officer. He was respected for his truth-speaking, his overall competence and his ability to process information quickly and make a decision.
Russ met his wife, Teri, when the military sent him to a public affairs course at the Defense Information School. She was taking the same course, as a civilian. The couple married later that year and spent the next three years in Germany. Their son, Will, was born in Texas in 1995.
“People often thought that the military shaped him, but he was born for the military,” said his obituary writer. Check the full obituary here.
The family will receive friends today (08/21/23) from 4-6 p.m. at Mynatt Funeral Home in Halls with a celebration of life to follow.