dan_m._russell_jr.jpgGULFPORT, Miss. (AP) _ U.S. District Judge Dan M. Russell Jr., who played a critical role in legal fights of the Civil Rights era in Mississippi, has died. He was 98.

Russell died at his home on Saturday of natural causes, said Jason Green, a funeral director at the Riemann Family Funeral Homes and a friend of the judge.

Russell was appointed to the bench by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 and served as the chief judge between 1971 and 1982 in the Southern District of Mississippi. He later served as a senior judge.

Russell was involved in school desegregation cases in Mississippi and cases involving Charles Evers, the Ku Klux Klan and the Rev. Charles J. Jessup, according to an obituary provided by Riemann and prepared by Russell.