A proponent of human rights and nonviolence, Hubert R. Marshall, professor emeritus of political science, influenced generations of Stanford students with his class on American public policy. He died on Dec. 7 from respiratory complications at a retirement home in Mill Valley, California. He was 96.

Hubert R. Marshall

Hubert R. Marshall (Image credit: Courtesy Marshall family)

Born Jan. 16, 1920, in Chicago, Marshall spent most of his career teaching and mentoring students at Stanford, where he taught a popular class, Major Issues of American Public Policy, for about 37 years until his retirement in 1990.

“Teaching was where his heart was,” said Victor Fuchs, Marshall’s friend and professor emeritus of economics at Stanford.

In 1985, Marshall was honored with a Walter J. Gores Award, Stanford’s highest award for excellence in teaching. In a Stanford News press release, then Provost James Rosse cited Marshall for his “inspirational nurturing of generations of Stanford students, in classrooms, residence programs, and as advisor” and commended his course for being “a mainstay of the Stanford curriculum for three decades.”

Pacifist and civil rights supporter

Family and friends said Marshall was a thoughtful but temperate man who believed in equality and the power of education.

Jonathan Marshall described his father as a role model, who was immersed in – and passionate about – real-world social issues.

“He had a strong, strong ethical compass,” Marshall said. “But he was also very even-tempered and reasonable. When other people would be at each other’s throats, he had a calming influence and could bring people on opposite sides of an issue together.”

“Hugh was a class act,” Fuchs added. “He was thoughtful and sincere but also balanced.”

The subjects of civil rights and war were particularly close to Marshall’s core. But he began his academic career concentrating on life sciences, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

While studying at Antioch College, Marshall was exposed to literature about pacifism, a philosophy he embraced partially because of his Presbyterian upbringing. During World War II, Marshall was a conscientious objector who refused to serve in the military. He spent the war years in work camps instead, doing basic road work and helping to manage national forests.

Marshall’s passion for civil rights also developed while studying at Antioch, where he served on the race relations committee. Seeing the effects of segregation and discrimination in Yellow Springs also spurred him to act. Along with other students, he pressured local businesses to end discriminatory practices.

“Hugh felt very strongly about fairness,” said his wife, Rachelle, whom he met at Antioch. “He and I found it outrageous that people were denied service because of their skin color.”

Passion for those issues, coupled with his growing love of teaching, led the Marshalls to North Carolina in 1947, where Hubert got his doctorate degree in political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During his time there, the couple got to know and support prominent civil rights leaders, including Bayard Rustin, a key adviser of Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1948, Rustin, who was a pioneer in the movement to desegregate interstate bus travel, was arrested for sitting in the front of a bus and was sent to a prison camp for 30 days in North Carolina.

The Marshalls visited him several times, bringing him basic toiletries. Once Rustin was released, the couple picked him up and took him to their home for a meal.

“We were told that we were the only white people who came to visit him,” Rachelle Marshall said. “I remember we didn’t have much money, but I splurged and bought a steak for him once he was released. He had hardly anything to eat at the prison camp.”

An ardent teacher

After a brief time teaching at the University of Florida and then working on the program-planning staff of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Marshall came to Stanford to teach in 1953.

Marshall’s passions carried over to his work at Stanford. He was one of many faculty members who opposed the Vietnam War and military recruitment on campus. He was also on the selection committees of prestigious Rhodes, Truman and Marshall scholarships.

But he regarded teaching as his biggest responsibility and preferred giving all of his time to students.

For Marshall, his class was a continuing work in progress, and he revised his curriculum to add current events and journal articles.

“He never hid his opinions, but he was really good about not trying to force them onto students,” Jonathan Marshall said.

Students regarded Marshall as a fatherly figure and occasionally came over to the Marshalls’ home for lunch, Rachelle Marshall said.

“The students loved him,” Rachelle Marshall said. “And he loved the students and loved teaching most of all.”

After retiring in 1990, Marshall and his wife continued to live in their home on Stanford’s campus until moving to a retirement home to be closer to their son in 2000.

Marshall is survived by his wife, Rachelle; their son, Jonathan, and daughter-in-law Lorrie Goldin; grandson Ishmael Wallace; and granddaughters Vita Wallace and Katherine and Jennifer Marshall.

Contributions may be sent to the Center for Constitutional Rights, 666 Broadway, New York, NY, 10012.

Media Contacts

Alex Shashkevich, Stanford News Service: (650) 497-4419, ashashkevich@stanford.edu