Excerpt from my Book, "Unless WE Tell It...It Never Gets Told!" Chapter 20...Richard Wesley Marshall.
Adjacent to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial on the National Mall, and situated in a direct line between the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial, stands the powerful and majestic memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Congress passed joint resolutions in 1996 authorizing Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., to establish a memorial in Washington, D.C., honoring Dr. King. In 2011, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was completed and dedicated.
No one can begin to imagine the sincere pride that I had in the presence of this profound—and literally monumental—recognition of this great civil rights leader. Imagine, too, how surprised I was when I saw Richard W. Marshall, chief financial officer, listed as a member of the memorial project team. Richard was the Chief Financial Officer of the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial and as such was responsible for handling more than 120 Million Dollars. It did not take me long to find out that this Richard Marshall was indeed my friend and former longtime neighbor. I could not have been prouder.
Richard Marshall, his late brother, George, and his (recently deceased) sister, Catherine, were my friends and next-door neighbors for more than ten years. Richard's late sister, Catherine Patricia "Trish" Marshall, and I graduated in the Northwestern Jr Sr High School First Graduating class in 1960. George graduated from Northwestern in 1961, and Richard in 1964.
Richard went to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), graduating with degrees in accounting and economics. He began his career in 1969 as a staff auditor for Arthur Young & Company in New York City. During his summers, Richard organized programs to help churches and daycare centers in Harlem, while also assisting them with getting help for their financial books. When he went to work for General Motors in 1972, he relocated to Detroit, and established similar programs in Michigan. When Richard heard about the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial effort, he thought the project’s organizers could use his expertise.
He talked with Rod Gillum, the vice president of GM’s community relations—and now the chairman of the Memorial Foundation’s board—and Rod brought him on to work for the foundation. Richard and his wife moved to Washington, D.C., in June 2001, after GM had signed on as the lead Memorial’s sponsor and committed $10 million to the foundation. And as we are prone to say, the rest is history.
During the chapter, Richard and I had a great conversation about this Prodigious Commemorative undertaking and about the legacy of Dr. King, and what he meant to him. A few highlights...
Richard Marshall: “When I was in seventh grade, my next-door neighbor was a high school senior who was a leader involved in NAACP student initiatives. He talked a lot about Dr. King and I learned from watching and listening to him at school and in the neighborhood. My family and I started seeing a lot of civil rights marches on television, but it really brought it home that my neighbor was a young leader advocating for civil rights.” [Of course, I was Richard’s next-door neighbor. You never what you might do or say to impact someone.]
RH: What was the highlight of the dedication ceremony for you?
Richard Marshall: Listening to President Obama speak during the rescheduled dedication ceremony on the National Mall. It was a very historic moment, having the first Black President of the United States dedicate the first Memorial to an iconic Black civil rights figure on the National Mall. My hope has always been that the Memorial will serve as a beacon for global peace, a place for conversations that will keep the legacy of Dr. King alive to energize future generations.
The Struggle Continues!