COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Russ Carreker, a successful Columbus businessman, civic leader, and former Auburn University football player, died Tuesday.
He was 57. The funeral will be Thursday at 4 p.m. at Grace Presbyterian. Visitation to follow.
Carreker died after a lengthy battle with stomach cancer. Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson announced the news of Carreker’s death at Tuesday night’s council meeting. The family confirmed it to News 3.
Carreker was president of C3 Property Investments, LLC. In 1998, he started a successful firm, Starrett-Bytewise Measurement Systems, which he sold in 2014.
He also worked as a vice president at Columbus Bank & Trust Co.
At the time of his death he served on the Georgia Department of Transportation Board, a position he was elected to by members of the General Assembly last year. He also served a number of years on the Development Authority of Columbus, a city board.
Retired Synovus Chairman Jimmy Yancey knew Carreker from the time he was a young banker throughout his community involvement.
“He developed into one of the real leaders in our community,” Yancey said. “You know, he wasn’t a young up-and-coming leader anymore. He was there. And I, for one, was really looking forward to seeing what he was going to do for Columbus. This is a tremendous loss.”
Mat Swift, the retired president of the W.C. Bradley Co., Real Estate Division, agreed with Yancey.
“This is a huge loss on several fronts,” Swift said. “Once he sold out of his business, he began to devote his whole life to helping out Columbus. That became his job.”
And it was the way he did it that caught the attention of Swift and other seasoned leaders.
“He had the ability to have a big vision,” Swift said. “And not only did he have that big vision but from a strategic standpoint, he could zero in on the specifics.”
Amy Bryan, now the CEO of Direct Services Inc., spent more than a decade at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and she saw Carreker’s community involvement first hand.
“His legacy will live on forever,” she said. “He is the sole reason that Startup Columbus exists. Being an entrepreneur himself and seeing the impact that entrepreneurism has had on our community, he knew the investment would pay dividends.”
Startup Columbus is a business incubator that helps people grow fledgling businesses.
“But more than anything, Russ was a man of his word,” Bryan said.
A native of Americus, Ga., Carreker graduated from Southland Academy. A Boy Scout, Carreker attained Eagle Scout status.
He played for Coach Pat Dye at Auburn from 1983-to 1986. He was a linebacker who fought his way into a starting position during the 1985 season. He was a starter in the 1986 season when the Tigers went 10-2.
Former Russell County and Smiths Station Coach Mark Rose played on some of those teams with Carreker.
“Russ was the consummate teammate,” Rose said. “He was a great example and leader for our young players. Russ was not a man of many words, but he led by example, tremendous ethic, care and compassion for his teammates.”
Carreker told a story once of a meeting he had with Dye, a hard-nosed football coach who demanded a lot from his players. At the end of spring practice, Dye would call the players into his office, one by one, to discuss their progress and what was expected of them going forward.
Dye’s meetings with Carreker always took a turn. Like Carreker, Dye was a Georgia farm boy to his very roots. And Dye had a farm he was developing just outside of Auburn.
“He would pull out his farm plans and we would just talk about them,” Carreker said several years ago.
Rose, a native of South Florida, heard that story for the first time this week.
“I was in some of those meetings,” Rose said. “What that tells you is how much he was worried about Russ getting the job done on the football field. Solid as a rock.”
He was a volunteer football coach at Brookstone.
When Carreker was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer, everything that people close to Carreker knew about him was confirmed.
“The real mark of a man is not when things are going good, but in true adversity,” Swift said. “When he was diagnosed, he knew the odds were not good. But he kept a positive attitude. It was so inspiring. Over the last year, he stayed involved and embodied servant leadership.”
Columbus businessman Billy Blanchard agreed. He had a close relationship with Carreker.
“He was a strong Christian and he lived his faith,” Blanchard said. “He lived it every day and we were able to see that. My prayers go out to Patti his daughter, Avery, and the rest of the family. It is a tremendous loss for all of us, but especially for them.”
Carreker is survived by his wife, Patti; daughter, Avery; parents Doug and Joyce Carreker; sisters Vicki Jones and Susan Daughtry; and a number of nieces and nephews.