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MARSHALL, JOHN WESLEY

John Wesley Marshall
John Wesley Marshall (1869–1944), state legislator, served as the forty-first speaker of the Texas House of Representatives from 1909 to 1911. Courtesy Legislative Reference Library of Texas and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

MARSHALL, JOHN WESLEY (1869–1944). John Wesley Marshall, businessman, mayor, state representative, and speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, was born in Jacksonville, Texas, on February 23, 1869. He was the son of William Henry and Martha Ann (Bolton) Marshall. He moved with his family to Whitesboro in 1879 and attended Whitesboro public schools. As a child and a young man, Marshall helped his father operate a hardware store in Whitesboro, where eventually he became mayor and helped establish the First National Bank of Whitesboro. He married Cora Rachel Sears in 1898, and they remained married until her death in 1925. They did not have children.

Marshall, representing District 35 (Grayson County), was elected to a single term in the Texas legislature in 1908. He was known as a fierce prohibitionist, which put him at odds with the “wet faction” in the state. Although he lacked political experience, he succeeded to the speakership in the Thirty-first Texas Legislature after the resignation of Austin M. Kennedy and presided over the Texas House during the four called sessions of 1909 and 1910. While he was speaker, the legislature began to address the inadequacies of the state prison system and passed a bill that produced a prison board, appointed by the governor, with the addition of an auditor to oversee the prison system. The bill also abolished the leasing of prison labor to outside contractors (see CONVICT LEASE SYSTEM). While he was a member of the state legislature, Marshall served on the Appropriations Committee, Appropriations Subcommittee on the Blind Institute, Banks and Banking Committee, Internal Improvements Committee, Public Lands and Land Office Committee, and was chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the North Texas Normal and College of Industrial Arts. After 1911 he stepped down and chose not to return to politics. 

Following his service in the legislature, Marshall lived in Sherman, Texas, where he built a career as a realtor. He served on the board of trustees of Kidd-Key College and led two local trade associations on finance and building. Following the death of his first wife, he married Bertha L. Cameron Snodgrass in 1928. Marshall died on November 22, 1944, after sustaining burns from a car crash in Denison, Texas, on November 21. His car collided with a truck carrying a butane tank, which resulted in an explosion. Both Marshall and his wife died from injuries sustained in the crash. He was seventy-five. He is buried in a mausoleum at West Hill Cemetery in Sherman, Texas. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

“John Wesley Marshall (1969–1944), 41st Speaker (1909–1911),” Texas House Speakers Oral History Project—Biographies and Resources—Index—Guide to 41st Through 50th Speakers, Briscoe Center for American History (https://www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/speakers_41_50.php#marshall), accessed May 6, 2016. Legislative Reference Library of Texas: John Wesley Marshall (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=2929&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=marshall~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed May 6, 2016. Presiding Officers of the Texas Legislature, 1846–2006 (Austin: Texas Legislative Council, 2006).

Clayton Cummings

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Handbook of Texas Online, Clayton Cummings, "Marshall, John Wesley," accessed October 22, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmars.

Uploaded on June 22, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.