H.M. Bottom left legacy of service

H.M. Bottom was a man who wore many hats in Russell County and left a lasting legacy of service.

H.M. passed away on Saturday at the age of 82 following a battle with COVID-19.

Bottom’s time working in Russell County government spanned over six different administrations in the judge executive’s office over a roughly 40-year period.

“And that says something because usually when the administration changes, a lot of personnel changes too,” County Judge Executive Gary Robertson said.

Over his life, Bottom served in many capacities including the fire chief for the Russell Springs Fire Department, the county emergency management director, working for the ambulance service, establishing the local rescue squad, and much more.

Assistant Fire Chief Bobby Johnson said he will always remember how H.M. believed in him and said he leaves big shoes to fill.

“H.M. came to me and said, ‘young man, do you have what it takes?’ and I said I’d give it a try, and he told me that’s all he could ask,” Johnson said. “I’m here today after 33 years and I’m still a firefighter. He’s put confidence in me over the years and moved me up through the fire department and I’m honored. Those are some big shoes to fill here in Russell County. They’ll probably never truly be filled. The knowledge that man had is incredible.”

Lieutenant Jeff Wilson with the Russell Springs Fire Department said H.M. was more than just a fire chief, but was a mentor and father figure for many of the firefighters.

“He’s taught us all a lot,” Wilson said. “He had that tough side to him, but he was a mentor and a role model to a lot of us.”

Russell County Sheriff Derek Polston said he came to know H.M. through working in law enforcement.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called on H.M. at 2 a.m. or 4 a.m., whether we have had a missing person or something like that, my first call was always to H.M.,” Polston said. “I knew H.M. would always have my back. That man is sadly going to be missed. He was one of a kind.”

Firefighter Brian “Hooty” Stephens said H.M. was someone he always looked up to growing up.

“I always looked up to those guys on the fire department growing up and especially H,” Stephens said. “There’s just not another man like him.”

Rick Godbey, Chief of the Russell County Rescue Squad, said he came to know H.M. close over the last three years.

“He taught me a lot in those three years,” Godbey said, noting that H.M. was one of the founding members of the rescue squad. “Without H.M., this county would be 20 years back. That’s my personal belief… He always had my back, and that man could just never be replaced.”

And Stephens said H.M. always took care of the firefighters.

“H.M. made sure we always had what we needed, and he always took care of the guys,” Stephens said. “We’re his boys and we’re his family. We loved the man to death and we wouldn’t be who we are without him and his guidance. Russell County wouldn’t be Russell County without H.M. Bottom.”

“We’ve lost a legend and a hero in Russell County,” Johnson added.

Featured photo by Ramie Hutchison/Hutch Digital

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Zac Oakes is the News and Sports Director for LakerCountry.com and Laker Country WJRS 104.9 FM.