Russell Lee aka Sho Nuff, 1942-2010

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Russell Lee, also known as Sho Nuff, passed away on March 28. Photo courtesy Goodnight, Raleigh!

The younger generation in downtown Raleigh is mourning the loss of a man who inspired joy and wonder among its ranks. After the passing of Russel Lee, more commonly known as Sho Nuff, more than 70 people attended a memorial bike ride this week to honor his memory and raise money for his family.

Sho Nuff passed away Sunday evening in hospital after a motor scooter wreck days earlier left him paralyzed from the neck down. He leaves behind three daughters, two brothers, and two sisters. One of his daughters and a sister were present at Tuesday’s memorial bike ride kick-off as well as one of his brothers and nephews.

“It is not often, that you look at somebody and say ‘I wanna be like that when I grow up,’ but that is how Sho Nuff made you feel,” said Miles Holst, one of the organizers of last night’s fundraising ride.

Russel’s daughter Sanya told the crowd she was “touched by so many people coming out and showing support for [her] father.”

Whether it was First Friday or just a regular night out on the town Sho Nuff never passed by unnoticed. Between his well-lit, cheetah print bike, Wild Thing-which changed with the seasons-and his custom made clothes emblazoned with his nickname, Sho Nuff knew how to make an entrance.

Sho Nuff was an icon and a familiar face around Raleigh. Photo courtesy Goodnight, Raleigh!

But those who met him do not remember him for his flashy style. It was his spirit and lifestyle-having a good time, imparting wise nuggets to the youth, living life unashamedly his way-that touched lives.

“He was the kind of guy who, even if you only talked to him for ten minutes, you would never forget,” said Garret “Big Rig” Quinn, who became friends with Sho Nuff while working at the Farmhouse restaurant on Hillsborough Street.

Sho Nuff had a short stint working as ID checker at the Farmhouse. Big Rig and another colleague said they remember Sho Nuff was always very trusting of patrons ages, “especially if it was a pretty girl with a smile on her face.” Big Rig and some other employees threw Sho Nuff a 65th birthday party at the Farmhouse. They remember him shaking it on the dance floor and afterward saying that it was “the best birthday party of my life.”

The last time Big Rig saw Sho Nuff, he was dropping by the Farmhouse to show Big Rig his new scooter.

Sho Nuff’s younger brother, David Lee, remembers Sho Nuff, who was active in the local music scene, as a “singer and entertainer his whole life. Back when we were growing up in the New Jersey projects Butch [David’s nickname for Russel] and George Clinton used to play music together. Before George got into all that funk, I remember him sleeping on our couch and him and Butch making music together on the back steps.”

Cyclists gathered earlier this week for a memorial bicycle ride. Photo by Will Butler.

David and Sho Nuff came to North Carolina “12 or 13 years ago so [they] could be here to look after [their] Mom and Sister.” David called his brothers death “shocking” but he will always recall “Butch as somebody who was happy.”

Gray Sutton, a friend of Sho Nuff’s, called him a “free-rider, who displayed comfort in the way he was. He loved life, lived it to the fullest, and didn’t care what people thought.”

Sho Nuff may not have cared what people thought about the way he lived life by the seat of his bike, but he wanted each and every one of them to share in his joy of life. Downtown Raleigh has lost a great man to a tragic accident, but not his legend.

Correction appended: The headline for this article originally said Russell Lee was born in 1952. He was actually born in 1942.

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