Russel Merrill was born in 1894 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six months short of graduation from Cornell University Merrill joined the U.S. Navy, earning his gold wings in 1918. He flew with Roy Davis to Alaska in 1925, completing the first civilian flight over the Gulf of Alaska. In the month of August Merrill set many other “firsts”; he is the first to fly an aircraft into Anchorage, Seldovia and Kodiak Island. He was hired as the first pilot of Anchorage Air Transport in 1926, becoming chief pilot in 1927. In September 1929 Merrill departed Anchorage on a flight towards Bethel, and never returned. Merrill Field was named in his honor.