The city 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, and the City of Seven Flags.
By 1860 the city was the fourth largest city in Texas and the seat of the richest county. The county had more slaves 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 Missouri's Confederate government-in-exile, earning the it 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 Vicksburg. The city may have been the intended target of a failed Union advance that was rebuffed at Mansfield, Louisiana. Towards the end of the Civil War Richmond had $9 million in Treasury notes and $3 million in postage stamps shipped to Marshall, possibly meaning that Marshall was the intended destination of a government preparing to flee from advancing armies.
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 College 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 Texas 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 County 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.
Natural gas arrived in the city from a field on Caddo Lake 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 Kilgore 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 College, 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. Supreme Court, 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 County 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 Austin Law school, but was denied entry because of the color of his skin; he then sued and the Texas Supreme Court 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.
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 Jefferson, 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 Taipei 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 Longview.
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.
The first decade of the 21st century saw moderate economic growth and 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 continued to deteriorate and some structured in moderate condition were approved for demolition for replacement by pre-fabricated or tin structures.
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, Tyler, and Texarkana. 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.
|District||2007 Commission||2002 Commission||1999 Commission|
|District 1||Vacant/Katie Jones||Katie Jones||Jean Birmingham|
|District 2||Zephaniah Timmins||Alonza Williams||Alonza Williams|
|District 3||Ed Carlile||Ed Carlile||Chris Horsley|
|District 4||Jack Hester||Jack Hester||Audrey Kariel (Mayor)|
|District 5||John Wilborn||John Wilborn||John Wilborn|
|District 6||Mike McMurry||Bryan Partee||Michael Smith|
|District 7||Ed Smith (Mayor)||Ed Smith (Mayor)||Martha Robb|
|City Manager||Frank Johnson||Tony Williams|
|Asst. City Manager||Janet Cook||Frank Johnson|
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 Rock 190 miles or 305 km), Louisiana (Baton Rouge, 239 miles or 384 km), and Mississippi (Jackson 243 miles or 390 km) than it is to the capital of Texas (Austin, 253 miles or 407 km).
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 Terminal 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 Texas, centered around Wiley College. 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 University, and three historic cemeteries: Marshall Cemetery, Powder Mill Cemetery, and Greenwood, which is divided into Christian and Jewish sections.
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 2002, 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.
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. Black & Decker maintains a small presence in the Marshall Business Park. 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.
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 University and Wiley College, Texas State Technical College-Marshall and Panola College-Marshall. ETBU is the largest in town.
The city has one newspaper the, Marshall News Messenger,and has an ABC news office. Three radio stations KMHT, KMHT-FM, and KBWC 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, Louisiana: KTBS (ABC), KSLA (CBS), KMSS (FOX), KTAL (NBC), KPXJ (The CW), KSHV (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 KMHT FM.