Anyone have Russell Cantwell as Circuit Overseer?

by cabasilas 9 Replies latest jw experiences

  • cabasilas

    In the 60s when I first started associating with JWs in Southern California our Circuit Overseer was Russell Cantwell. He was one of the plaintiffs in the landmark Supreme Court case Cantwell vs Connecticut. I found a Time article about the case here:,9171,763796,00.html

    One thing that was unusual about this Circuit Overseer is that he and his wife raised a daughter while in the circuit work. They lived in an apartment at a Kingdom Hall and their daughter went with them to each congregation they visited. When we had him as a CO the daughter must have been about 13 or so.

    Just wondering if others had Cantwell as CO? He was a company man to be sure but I remember him being a bit more balanced on some issues. Once, he told us all to bring a dollar bill and a calendar with us to the lecture he was giving after the Watchtower Study. At the lecture, he went on to discuss how some people were paranoid about demons. He recounted how one JW had thrown away their dishes because they had bought them at a rummage sale and were afraid they might be demonized. He then asked the JW how would he know if something new was not demonized. Perhaps the truck driver who delivers new items to department stores might be having seances on the way? As for the dollar bill, he had us look at the eye that is on the back. He said that originated with an Egyptian god (Horus, I think) and that if anyone felt their money was demonized he would take it off their hands. Then he pulled out the calendar and pointed out the names of the weeks and months and pointed out that we still use the calendar, even though its origins were pagan. He mentioned how one brother had come up with a "theocratic" calendar and that Brother Rutherford had told him he was wasting his time on it. (I didn't know until later that this brother was the Clayton Woodworth, the editor of The Golden Age and that this calendar was published by the Society in 1935.) This is stuff I remembered later as I started to question the WT's stance on pagan origins of things.

  • BluesBrother

    Naturally, I do not know him being in the UK..but he sounds just like some of the characters that I remember in my youth, around here. They were men who had lived a bit before coming in and had a bit of common sense . Some were not afraid to depart from the party line and say what they thought..

    Today's lot are a bunch of Watchtower Clones..

    BTW I liked the opening to the Times article.

    Jehovah's Witnesses are a Bible-dizzy cult whose zealous members push doorbells, hand out pamphlets, play phonograph records, to anyone who will listen, denouncing the Roman Catholic Church.
  • snowbird

    I remember attending a special talk by a GB member, and the name was mentioned.

    Something about his daughter's writing him a letter to tell him how much she appreciated being raised a JW.


  • leavingwt

    His older brother, Jesse, was my Circuit Overseer in 1994 in Mississippi.

    I knew Russell in Brooklyn. I've eaten lunch with him in the 30 C.H. dining room. He loved ice cream, as did I.

    Each spring, Bethelites in many congregations would be put under much pressure to engage in the auxilliary pioneer work. I always thought this was ridiculous. 44 hours per week at Bethel, and then pioneer in a congregation territory an hour away? No thanks.

    Once, when Russell was asked why he didn't auxilliary pioneer (while at Bethel), he responded: "Have you ever heard of Regular Pioneer applying to Auxilliary Pioneer?"



  • cabasilas

    Thanks, LWT, for the story. I wonder if perhaps his more reasonable approach was due to having been a parent?

    I remember back in the 60s asking Cantwell about William Schnell, who had written Thirty Years A Watchtower Slave. I was about 14 and the book had made me ask some questions (I was also a teenager who was attracted to the JWs with no other family interested). I remember how calmly and dispassionately he discussed Schnell. There was no anger, no "why are you reading his book?" reply. I think if he had played a guilt trip on me for reading an "apostate" book instead, I don't know if I would have continued with the JWs. Instead, I was reassured by Cantwell's manner of reply.

  • oompa

    i had bro. cantwell as my co....prob in late 70's or early 80's.....but i cant recall his first name dammit......he had a good sense of humor.....his first visit he said it was easy to remember his name he cant do anything well........oompa

  • mac n cheese
    mac n cheese

    No, but we had Henry Cantwell, who was part of that family. Nice enough guy, a real farmer "aw shucks" kind of person. He was harmless and ineffective. I heard he retired to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he slowly lost his mind (Alzheimer's, I think).

    Oompa, he also cracked the can't do anything well joke - "cantwell".

    Mac n Cheese

  • cabasilas

    I mentioned the "Calendar" issue that Cantwell had referred to.

    Just in case new ones here aren't familiar with this....Here's a link to the PDF of the issues from the Golden Age in 1935 about the "Calendar of Jehovah God." It was also published in the 1935 Yearbook and in the Watchtower. After it came out, Rutherford apparently had second thoughts about how crazy JWs would appear using their own calendar and he put a stop to it. Anyway, here's the link:

  • graphoexpert

    I remember the Cantwells from Anaheim in the mid-sixties. Darla was their daughter and I've sometimes wondered whatever became of them. He was one of my faves.

  • AwSnap

    Don't know who that is. Sounded like a good guy. The only CO/DO I remember was Scalioni from Fort Lauderdale. He told us to remember his name by thinking of macaroni. Swell fella. Wish there were more like 'em. Unfortunately, they're one in a million :-( Well, I guess TWO in a million ;-)

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