Henry "Russell" Hood, 73, top aide to James Garner for almost the last 14 of his 16 years as Hempstead Village mayor, died of heart-related issues Thursday at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola. He lived in Hempstead.
"There were very few decisions I made as village mayor that Russell was not involved in. I relied on him for advice. He was my go-to person in so many areas," said Garner, Long Island's first black mayor, who left office in March 2005.
Jeri Barrows, a former deputy village treasurer, said of Hood: "If he was your friend, it was to the end."
Hood, a native of Mineral Springs, N.C., served four years in the Army and was honorably discharged in 1964. He then moved to Hempstead, where he met and married Callie Jones, with whom he had two children before they divorced.
He attended City College of New York in Manhattan and Adelphi University in Garden City but did not graduate.
He was a longtime Republican who worked in several posts for Nassau County from 1968 to 1992, the last and longest as community service director at its Roosevelt-Freeport Health Clinic.
Billy Sammon was co-leader, with Garner, of village Republicans. Hood, "a committeeman for years, was a guiding voice in party activity," Sammon said.
Village School Board president Betty Cross called Hood "a major community asset."
Mayor Wayne Hall, a Democratic trustee under Garner, said he and Hood "always sought the best for the village."
Mel Jackson, who heads the Leadership Training Institute in Hempstead, on whose board Hood sat for the past five years, said "Russell fought the good fight for the community."
Hood retired from the village in 2004, after Garner lost a bid for Congress.
Hood was an active member of Jackson Memorial AME Zion Church in Hempstead and a dozen community groups, including The 100 Black Men of Long Island and Long Island Catholic Charities.
He is survived by a son, Deric, of Dallas; a daughter, Charmelle, of Queens Village; three brothers, Bobby of Matthews and Raymond of Monroe, N.C., and Joseph of Spartanburg, S.C.; a sister, Pamela Neely of Gastonia, N.C.; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
A viewing will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Jackson Memorial, immediately followed by a service. Burial will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn.