Russell Charles Kick III was born on July 20, 1969, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he spent his youth. His mother, Jane (Woody) Kick, was an executive assistant and later a homemaker. His father, Russell Charles Kick II, became chairman of the department of accounting and finance at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville; Russ enrolled there, majoring in psychology, and graduated in 1991.
A brief early marriage, to Kimberly Gannon, ended in divorce. Mr. Kick is survived by his sister and his mother.
As a youth, Mr. Kick vacuumed up information. His sister said in an interview that they grew up surrounded by books — including a dog-eared copy of “An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn’t” (1987), by William Wilson and Judy Jones — and played competitive rounds of Trivial Pursuit.
After college, he started a doctoral program in public policy at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he received a full scholarship. But he lost interest and dropped out, enrolling instead at Nashville State Technical Institute, now Nashville State Community College, to study communication arts.
Attending the technical college, from which he graduated in 1995, was a turning point in his life, his sister said. The program developed his innate interests and taught him how to create websites and design books. While still a student, he produced his first book, “Outposts: A Catalog of Rare and Disturbing Alternative Information” (1995), which offered tidbits on topics like sex, drugs, censorship, and religious and cultural extremism.
“He was a true polymath,” Michael Ravnitzky, a public records researcher and a friend of Mr. Kick’s, said in an email.
Mr. Kick, he added, was “interested in every subject under the sun, hunting down factual information and fictional expression across the range of human existence.”