Newton Russell, who represented a swath of the San Fernando Valley in the state Legislature for more than three decades, died Saturday at his Southern California home. He was 85 and succumbed, his family said, to lung cancer.
Russell, a Republican, was dubbed the "conscience of the Senate" for his frequent admonitions to colleagues about following procedural rules and understanding the details and potential consequences of legislation. He was particularly critical of expanding "peace officer" status to additional blocs of state and local employees that would qualify them for higher pension benefits.
Russell, an insurance agent by profession, was first elected to the Assembly in 1964 from a Glendale-centered district, and a decade later won a special state Senate election. He retired in 1996. The area he represented was dependably Republican during his career but after his retirement became dominated by Democratic voters and legislators.
Russell's brother, John, who preceded him in death, was best known as the star of a popular television series, "The Lawman," in the 1960s. Both brothers served in World War II, John in the Marine Corps and Newt in the Navy.
Newt Russell is survived by his widow, Diane The couple had three children and eight grandchildren. The family is planning private services. A public memorial gathering is planned, but the details have not been set.