Joe Russ III was a resident of Humboldt County all his life. He was the son of Joseph II and Sadie (Flower) Russ of Ferndale, and the grandson of pioneers Joseph and Zippora (Patrick) Russ who settled in the Eel River Valley in 1852.
He attended the Assumption School in Ferndale and went to St. Mary's High School in Oakland. He then attended St. Mary's College in Moraga for two years before transferring to the University of California at Davis where he completed a degree in Animal Husbandry.
As a young man, Joe cowboyed on the family ranches in the Bear River country, as well as Ft. Baker, Blocksburg, and Redwood Creek areas. He took particular pride in developing lines of sheep and cattle that were productive on the native ranges of Humboldt County. He became known as a leader in the production of sheep and cattle through the use of superior breeding stock. Joe enjoyed telling of the early cattle drives from Petrolia to Ferndale. He also took part in cattle drives from Trinity County through Redwood Creek to Korbel where cattle were shipped south by rail.
In 1933 he married Clara Annette Tamboury of Blue Lake, California, daughter of the livestock boss for the Northern Redwood Lumber Company on the Mad River.
Joe was active in a number of statewide organizations; he believed that a change of government policy could best be accomplished by working with other ranchers and agricultural groups. He served for many years as a director of the California Wool Growers Association, including a term as president. He traveled to Washington, DC, a number of times to help develop a National Wool Act which became Federal policy in 1954. He was an active member of the California Cattlemen's Association, serving on their board of directors as well as holding the office of vice-president. Having a great interest in range improvement and timber production, he became a founding director of the Forest Landowners Association.
In 1964, Joe was honored by the California Chamber of Commerce, at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, as "Livestock Man of the Year".