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Marshall is a town in Harrison Countymarker in the northeastern corner of Texasmarker. This town is a major cultural and educational center in East Texas, and the tri-state area. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the population of Marshall was about 23,935. The town is the county seat of Harrison Countymarker .

The town was a political and production center of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and was a major railroad center of the T&P Railroad from the late 19th century until the mid-20th century. The city's large African American population and the presence of black institutions of higher learning made Marshall a center of the civil rights movement in the South. The city is known for holding one of the largest light festivals in the United States, the Wonderland of Lights, and, as the self-proclaimed Pottery Capital of the World, for its sizable pottery industry.

Marshall is also referred to by various nicknames; the Cultural Capital of East Texas, the Gateway of Texas, the Athens of Texas, the City of Seven Flags, and Patent Troll Haven.


19th Century

The Republic of Texas and the Civil War

The city was founded in 1841 as the seat of Harrison County, after repeated failed attempts to establish a county seat on the Sabine Rivermarker since the county was established in 1839, and was incorporated in 1843. The Republic of Texas decided to choose the site of land granted by Peter Whetstone and Isaac Van Zandt after Whetstone had proven that the hilly location had a good water source. The city quickly became a major city in the state because of its position as a gateway to Texas on several major stage coach lines. The establishment of several "colleges"— schools offering little more than secondary education—earned Marshall the nickname the Athens of Texas, in reference to the ancient Greek city state. The city's growing importance was confirmed when Marshall was linked by a telegraph line to New Orleansmarker, becoming the first city in Texas to have a telegraph service.

By 1860, the city was the fourth largest city in Texasmarker and the seat of the richest county. The county had more slave than any other in the state, making it a hotbed of anti-Union sentiment. When Gov. Sam Houston refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, Marshall's Edward Clark was sworn in as governor. Marshall would also produce Texas's third Confederate governor, Pendleton Murrah. Marshall became a major Confederate city; producing gunpowder and other supplies for the Confederate Army, and hosting three conferences of Trans-Mississippi and Indian Territory leaders. The city also became the capital of Missourimarker's Confederate government-in-exile, earning it the nickname the City of Seven Flags—a nod to the flag of Missouri in addition to the other six flags that have flown over the city.

Marshall became the seat of civil authority and headquarters of the Trans-Mississippi Postal Department after the fall of Vicksburgmarker. The city may have been the intended target of a failed Union advance that was rebuffed at Mansfield, Louisianamarker. Towards the end of the War Between the States, the Confederate States government had $9.0 million in Treasury notes and $3.0 million in postage stamps shipped to Marshall, possibly meaning that Marshall was the intended destination of a government preparing to flee from advancing armies.

Reconstruction and the Railroad Era

Marshall was occupied by Union forces on June 17, 1865. During Reconstruction the city was home to an office of the Freedmen's Bureau and was the base for Union troops. In 1873 The Methodist Episcopal Church founded Wiley Collegemarker to educate free men. African-Americans came to the city seeking opportunities and protection until 1878, when the Citizens Party, led by former Confederate General Walter P. Lane and his brother George, took control of the city and county governments and ran Unionists, Republicans and many African-Americans out of town. The Lanes ultimately declared Marshall and Harrison County "redeemed" from Union and African-American control. Despite this the African-American community would continue to progress with the establishment of Bishop College in 1881 and the certification of Wiley by the Freedman's Aid Society in 1882.

Marshall's "Railroad Era" began in the early 1870s. Harrison County citizens voted to offer $300,000 bond subsidy, and the City of Marshall offered to donate land north of the downtown to the Texas and Pacific Railway if the company would move to Marshall. T&P President Jay Gould accepted and located the T&P's workshops and general offices for Texasmarker in Marshall. The city benefited immediately from a population explosion. By 1880 the city was one of the South's largest cotton markets. The city's new prosperity became apparent with the opening of J. Weisman and Co., the first department store in Texas, and with the installation of a single lightbulb in the Texas and Pacific Depot, Marshall became the first city in Texas to have electricity. Prosperity brought out elements which led to some nationally known crimes being tried in the city, including the trials for the attempted murder of Maurice Barrymore. During this period of wealth, many of the city's now historic homes were constructed. The city's most prominent industry, pottery manufacturing, began with the establishment of Marshall Pottery in 1895.

Despite the prosperity of the railroad era, poverty continued to be a problem in the city among all races, but tensions between whites and African-Americans continued to worsen as segregation crystallized in the city. The rural areas of Harrison Countymarker saw greater interaction between white people and African-Americans. There, whites and blacks being neighbors was commonplace. Even though the areas surrounding Marshall were somewhat integrated, racism was still apparent in everyday life. The fact that several plantation owners divided up sizable tracts of land and gave them to their former slaves may also have contributed to these tensions.

Twentieth century

Early and mid- 20th century

Natural gas arrived in the city from a field on Caddo Lakemarker in 1909. Under the leadership of John L. Lancaster, the Texas and Pacific Railway experienced its height during the first half of the 20th century, Marshall's ceramics industry expanded to the point that the city began to be called the "Pottery Capital of the World." Marshall's industry received a boost with the discovery of what was then the largest oil field in the world at nearby Kilgoremarker in 1930. Small landmarks of progress, such as the first student at Marshall High School to have a car, Lady Bird Johnson, excited the working class and poor. These small notes of progress would pale in comparison to the coming civil rights movement.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries children of both races had been raised to accept the status quo of racial segregation. African-American Marshall resident George Dawson later wrote about his childhood experiences with segregation in his book Life Is So Good. He described how, despite African-American children's acceptance of segregation, in some instances its demands were too outrageous to follow. For example, Dawson described how he had refused the demand of one employer who expected him to eat with her dogs. Other racist tactics were more overt; between October 1903 and August 1917 at least twelve people were lynched.

Not all instances of lynching were reported by authorities, so the number the number is likely an undercount.

In the early and mid 20th century Marshall's traditionally black colleges were thriving intellectual and cultural centers. Three major civil rights leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and later Jesse Jackson attended Bishop College while James L. Farmer Jr. went to Wiley Collegemarker, and Texas's member of the Harlem Renaissance, Melvin B. Tolson, wrote while teaching at Wiley.

With the increasing success of Wiley and Bishop, Marshall developed as one of the hearths of the civil rights movement, spurring key court challenges to Jim Crow on a national and state level. In 1950, the Marshall Board of Censors banned the movie Pinky from the city because it portrayed an interracial couple. The theater manager was convicted of a misdemeanor for showing the film and the case went all the way to the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker, which overturned the conviction.

Inspired by the teachings of professors, such as Melvin B. Tolson, students and former students of the colleges mobilized to challenge and dismantle Jim Crow. Fred Lewis, as the secretary of the Harrison Countymarker NAACP, challenged the oldest White Citizens Party in Texas and the laws it enforced; ultimately abolishing Jim Crow in the county with the Perry v. Cyphers verdict. Heman Sweatt, a Wiley graduate, tried to enroll in the University of Texas at Austinmarker Law school, but was denied entry because of the color of his skin; he then sued and the Texas Supreme Courtmarker ordered the desegregation of postgraduate studies in Texas in the Sweatt v. Painter decision. James L. Farmer Jr., another Wiley graduate, became an organizer of the Freedom Rides and a founder of the Congress of Racial Equality.

Late 20th century

The progression of civil rights would continue into the 1960s, 70s and 80s. In the 1960s, students organized the first sit-ins in Texas in the rotunda of the county courthouse on Whetstone Square in a move to end segregation of public schools; in 1970, all Marshall public schools were integrated. Also in that year, Carolyn Abney became the first woman to be elected to the city commission. In April 1975 local businessman Sam Birmingham became the first African-American to be elected to the city commission and, in the 80s, Marshall's first African-American mayor. Birmingham retired in 1989 for health concerns, and was succeeded by his wife, Jean Birmingham, who became the first African-American woman to serve on the commission.

Marshall's railroad industry subsequently declined with the dieselization of most trains, the proliferation of air travel, and the construction of the Interstate highway system after World War II. The T&P Shops closed in the 1960s and T&P passenger service ceased in 1970. The Texas oil bust of the 1980s devastated the local economy and the city's population declined by about a thousand between 1980 and 1990.

During the mid-20th century the city lost many of its landmarks. Some buildings were demolished because their owners disregarded their historic importance and preferred “modern” structures, others were demolished because their owners felt they could no longer afford to maintain them. By 1990, Marshall's opera house, the Missouri Capitol, the Moses Montefiore Synagogue, the original Viaduct, the Capitol Hotel, and the campus of Bishop College (including the Wyalucing plantation house) had been demolished. In the 1970s the city began to look at the preservation efforts of nearby Jeffersonmarker, increasingly developing a preservationist trend throughout the remainder of the 20th Century.

Due to newly completed construction projects, the city was one of ten designated an All American City in 1976 by the National Civic League. In 1978, then Taipeimarker mayor, Lee Teng-Hui, and Marshall mayor, William Q. Burns, signed legislation recognizing Marshall as a sister city with the much larger Taipei. During this period Bill Moyers won an Emmy for his documentary Marshall, Texas: Marshall, Texas chronicling the history of race relations in the city. Despite these instance of national and international attention the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s where largely a period of social and economic decline, as the city was surpassed in population and economic clout by its younger rival Longviewmarker.

The city began to concentrate on diversifying its economy in the 1980s and 1990s, with tourism emerging as an increasingly important area of the city’s economy. Two new festivals joined the longstanding Stagecoach Days, the Fire Ant Festival and the Wonderland of Lights. The Fire Ant Festival gained national attention through television features on shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, but it was the Wonderland of Lights that by far became the most popular—growing to become one of the largest light festivals in the United States. By 2000, the Wonderland of Lights had become such a part of the cityscape that the lighted dome of the Old Courthouse had become the most recognizable symbol of the city. However, in recent years, a visible decline has become the norm with fewer people attending due to lack of change and lack of adult oriented attractions within these festivals.

Twenty-first century

In the first decade of the 21st century the Sam B.
Hall, Jr. U.S.
Court House became one of the busiest federal courts.

The first decade of the 21st century saw moderate economic growthand a renaissance of downtown. By 2005 the Joe Weisman & Co. building, the T&P Depot, the Hotel Marshall, and the Old Courthouse were either restored or under restoration. Restaurants, boutiques, and loft apartments infused the downtown economy and saved historic structures in decline. Many historic homes outside of downtown continue to deteriorate and some structures in moderate condition were approved for demolition for replacement by pre-fabricated or tin structures. The square has become quite busy again, with few empty buildings. However, lack of funding and manpower has slowed movement on demolition and replacement throughout the city, and many of the historic homes only a few blocks from the square which could be salvaged are in grave danger of becoming too damaged to rescue.

The Sam B. Hall Federal Courthouse became one of the busiest courthouses in the country, becoming the venue for such cases as the Democratic challenge to the 2003 redistricting of Texas and the TiVo suit of EchoStar over DVR patent rights.

An unusual number of patent lawsuits are being filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas which includes Marshall, Tylermarker, and Texarkanamarker. Marshall has a reputation for plaintiff-friendly juries for the 5% of patent lawsuits that reach trial, resulting in 78% plaintiff wins. The number of patent suits filed in 2002 was 32, and the number for 2006 has been estimated at 234. Only the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles will have more patent suits filed than Marshall.

The city entered into a legal battle with local residents and environmentalist about the amount of water it could draw out of Caddo Lake—the source of the city’s water—dominated city-county relation during the decade.

A lengthy restoration of the square and the courthouse interfered with both regular and festival traffic for several years, but has been approaching completion.


The City of Marshall has a Council-manager form of municipal government, with all governmental powers resting in a legislative body called a Commission. The Commission passes all city laws and ordinances, adopts budgets, determines city policy, and appoints city officials, including the City Manager. The city manager, rather than a mayor, serves as the executive of the city government and thus is in charge of enforcing city laws and administering the city's various departments.

The City Commission

The City Commission has seven members, each elected to serve a single-member district. Districts 1–4 divide the city into four districts, and the districts 5–7 divide the city into three districts that overlay Districts 1–4, so every location in the city falls in two districts, one from each set. Each Commissioner is elected to a two-year term. Districts 1–4 hold elections in odd-numbered years and districts 5–7 in even years; elections are held in the spring. After each election, the City Commission selects a commissioner to serve as Chairman of the Commission, generically called a Mayor, until after the next year's election. If no one files to run against a commissioner, as happened with District 1 in 2005, the commissioner is reinstated and an election for that district is not held that year. The City Commission meets twice a month on the second and fourth Thursdays, in addition to any special sessions that are called or regular meetings that are canceled. The Commission provides a public forum before each regular session, providing citizens the opportunity to address the commission for two minutes without forward notice, with notice additional time may be scheduled. The Commission meetings are broadcast on radio and on the local public access television station.

Commission Members

District 2007 Commission 2002 Commission 1999 Commission
District 1 Vacant/Katie Jones
 Gloria Moon
Katie Jones Jean Birmingham
District 2 Zephaniah Timmins Alonza Williams Alonza Williams
District 3 Mike Hock Chris Horsley
District 4 Jack Hester Jack Hester Audrey Kariel (Mayor)
District 5 John Wilborn John Wilborn John Wilborn
District 6 Chris Paddie Bryan Partee Michael Smith
District 7 William Buddy Power (Mayor) Martha Robb

Local Government

Management of the city and coordination of city services are provided by:

Office Officeholder
City Manager Frank Johnson
Assistant City Manager Ardis Wright
Director of Finance Lisa Agnor
Fire Chief Kenneth J. "Buzz" Snyder
Director of Planning & Community Development Winston Robinson


Physical geography

Marshall is located at (32.542897, -94.363727) or roughly 150 miles (240 km) east of Dallas, Texasmarker and 40 miles (65 km) west of Shreveport, Louisianamarker. The intersection of US 80 and US 59 and the intersection of US 59 and Interstate 20 are located within the city limits of Marshall.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.6 square miles (76.8 km²), of that, 29.6 square miles (76.6 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km²) of it (0.27%) is water.

Marshall is closer to the capitals of Arkansas (Little Rockmarker 190 miles or 305 km), Louisiana (Baton Rougemarker, 239 miles or 384 km), and Mississippimarker (Jacksonmarker 243 miles or 390 km) than it is to the capital of Texas (Austinmarker, 253 miles or 407 km).

The city lies within the Eastern Interconnection rather than the Texas Interconnection making it part of only 15% of the state to lie outside of that power grid.

City layout

The city is bisected along a north-south axis by East End Blvd. (US 59). The eastern half of the city is bisected along an east-west axis by US 80 which east of its intersection with US 59 is called Victory Drive and west of US 59 is named Grand Ave. The Harrison County Airport and Airport Baseball Park are located to the south of Victory Dr. off of Warren Dr.
To the west of US 59, south of Pinecrest Dr. are older suburbs; north of Pinecrest Dr. the oldest portion of the city stretches northward over seven hills. This portion of the city radiates out from downtown which is centered on the Old Harrison County Courthouse in Peter Whetstone Square. Immediately to the north of the square is the Ginocchio National Historic District where the city's Amtrak Terminalmarker is located. This region of the city is bisected along an east-west by Grand Ave. (US 80). Spreading out from downtown is a belt of Antebellum and Victorian homes centered on Rusk and Houston Streets.

To the west of downtown are some of the oldest African-American neighborhoods in Texasmarker, centered around Wiley Collegemarker. To the north of Grand Ave. (US 80) are neighborhoods that were built largely by employees of the Texas and Pacific Railway. In addition to the Ginocchio National Historic District, this part of the city is home to East Texas Baptist Universitymarker, and three historic cemeteries: Marshall Cemetery, Powder Mill Cemetery, and Greenwood, which is divided into Christian and Jewish sections.


Marshall has a humid subtropical climate, characterized by hot summers and fairly mild winters. On average, Marshall receives 51.2 inches (1,300 mm) of rain per year. The precipitation is relatively evenly spread throughout year, with only the summer months of July and August receiving less than 3.5 inches (89 mm) on average.

In the spring months during the transition from winter to summer, severe weather is not uncommon, and tornadoes have hit the city in the past, including an F2 that struck the southern side of town in 2000, wiping out a Domino's Pizza on US Highway 59.

Summers in Marshall are hot and humid, with average temperatures higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29°C) from June through September. Temperatures above 100°F (38°C) are not uncommon, with a highest recorded temperature of 112°F (44°C) in August 1909.

Human geography


As of the census of 2000, there were 23,935 people, 8,730 households, and 6,032 families residing in the city. The population density was 809.5 people per square mile (312.5/km²). There were 9,923 housing units at an average density of 335.6 per square mile (129.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 54.66% White, 38.59% African American, 0.39% Native American, 0.55% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 4.83% from other races, and 0.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.64% of the population. The Asian population is mostly Indiansmarker from Andhra Pradeshmarker, Gujaratmarker, or Maharashtramarker and Chinese from Hong Kongmarker and Fuzhoumarker.

There were 8,730 households out of which 32.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.4% were married couples living together, 19.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.9% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.12.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.1% under the age of 18, 13.4% from 18 to 24, 24.6% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 87.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,335, and the median income for a family was $37,438. Males had a median income of $30,146 versus $21,027 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,491. About 17.8% of families and 22.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 32.5% of those under age 18 and 15.1% of those age 65 or over.


Marshall's economy is diversified and includes services such as Insurance claims processing at Blue Cross and Blue Shield, education at several institutes of higher learning, manufacturing such as wood kitchen cabinets at Republic Industries and pottery at several manufacturers. Tourism is also an important industry with about one million tourists visiting the city each year.

Marshall has a local sales tax of 2.0%. The Marshall Economic Development Corporation or MEDCO lobbies companies to locate in Marshall and offers incentives to businesses that do. The Greater Marshall Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of local businesses to local, state, and national leaders. And it has Marshall Mall.


The Campus of ETBU

Education in the city in secondary and primary education is almost entirely conducted by the Marshall Independent School District, with over 6,000 students at twelve campuses. A private institution, Trinity Episcopal School, also exists and some parents choose to homeschool.

There are nearly 2,000 college students in Marshall at East Texas Baptist Universitymarker and Wiley Collegemarker, Texas State Technical College-Marshall and Panola College-Marshall. ETBU is the largest in town.


The city has one newspaper the, Marshall News Messenger, (which is now a subsidiary of Longview's newspaper) and has an ABC news office. Three radio stations KMHTmarker, KMHT-FMmarker, and KBWCmarker are based in the city. There are no television stations in the city, but the city is within the reception area of stations based in Shreveport, Louisianamarker: KTBSmarker (ABC), KSLAmarker (CBS), KMSSmarker (FOX), KTALmarker (NBC), KPXJmarker (The CW), KSHVmarker (MNTV), and KLTS (Louisiana Public Broadcasting). The local cable company, Charter provides public access channels that show local football games produced by KMHT radio, live and replays of meeting of the City and County commissions, and streams audio from KMHTmarker FM.

Sites of interest

Notable natives, citizens, and associated people

*Note people from Marshall are called Marshallites
White House portrait

Please add new additions to the main list, not here.



Further reading

  • Marshall News Messenger (2001), A Pictorial History of Marshall, Texas and Harrison County (1st ed.), Heritage House, ISBN unknown

External links

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