Former president's family brings treasures to university archives

July 28, 2010

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University’s archives got a boost on Wednesday with a donation of several photos and other memorabilia from the family of former president Dr. J.W. “Bill” Marshall.

Marshall’s niece and nephew, Phillip Marshall of Gail and Rosemary Rogers of Hemphill, visited the campus to deliver some items they found in going through their parents’ mementos. Their father, Norville Rogers, was a brother of Bill Marshall, and they recalled several occasions where they got to visit with their “Uncle Bill” and hear of his travels and experiences. 

Along with six boxes of books, the donation included several photos of Marshall as a young man and about the time of his presidency at Wayland, as well as his daughter, Ann Lynn Marshall, in portraits taken as a child. Other photos depicted a family reunion in 1973, just four years before Marshall died of cancer, and one of five of the Marshall sons with their father. A revival program from the Cox City Baptist Church in Kansas, dating back to the 1920s when Marshall was a student at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth heralded him as the singer while brother Floyd preached, which the family noted was a common occurrence.

Rogers also donated a letter from Uncle Bill written to her on stationery of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, for which Marshall served as the first personnel secretary, on the occasion of her birth. The family also presented copies of magazine articles about Marshall’s travels and work in Brazil, where he completed documentary filming on tribes in the Amazon for National Geographic. An old Kodak camera was also among the mementos, a gift from Marshall to his brother Norville.

Marshall served the university as president from 1947-53 and was known for his vast experiences before and after his tenure. While at Wayland, he made headlines by enacting a ban on smoking on campus, considered quite controversial as it occurred years before the surgeon general announced a warning of the dangers of smoking. 

But Marshall’s biggest claim to fame in Wayland history was his decision to allow four African American teachers from the area admission in the summer of 1951 in order to fulfill continuing education requirements for their certification. Until that time, most schools had remained staunchly segregated out of long-time habit.

The board’s decision to allow the students’ enrollment made Wayland the first four-year, liberal arts college in the former confederate states to voluntarily integrate. The decision also opened the floodgates for mail on the subject, with some praising Marshall for the integration and others rabidly dismissing it as the beginning of the school’s demise. Marshall was also responsible for opening Wayland’s doors to many international students.

He literally brought people to Wayland from countries around the world,” said Phillip Marshall, whose daughter Leslie attended Wayland, graduating in 1995.

Marshall remembered his uncle from various visits as a young boy and said he never really talked much about his diverse experiences while with family, preferring to focus on their lives since he rarely got to visit. He recalls his uncle – who always drove a convertible – bringing ear phones on visits that he’d use to listen to tapes while sleeping to make the most of his time.

Rogers said when Bill Marshall did make visits to her home, he usually arrived late and night and her mother would wake her to move to the couch and free up her bed for the family guest.

“My last memory of him was while I was in college. He came to visit us in Louisiana and he wanted to play golf, so we spent the day golfing together,” she recalled. “Listening to him talk about flying around in his airplane to all these places was a real eye-opener for me. If he could do that, why couldn’t we? It opened the world up to us, and we looked to him for the exciting adventures of life.”