Alpha Rho Alumni Pays Tribute To Our Fallen Brother -- General Garwood Marshall -- Fall 1955
Brother Dr. General Garwood Marshall, a golf icon who helped to integrate several golf courses in the Austin, Texas area, passed into Omega Chapter on June 22, 2020.
The following is an appreciation that appeared in the Austin Statesman newspaper on July 3, 2020:
Golden: With General excellence, Marshall was a true Austin icon
By, Cedric Golden
Lavon Jackson never would have made it through 11th grade geometry had it not been for the kid she described as “that silly boy” she met years earlier at Kealing Junior High. “I didn’t really like him at first,” she said. “But he grew on me over time.”
During his 84 years, General Marshall grew on a lot of folks in places like Atlanta; Statesboro, Ga.; and Austin. His was a life of family, faith, service, education, mentorship and the game he loved. Huston-Tillotson’s longtime golf coach and professor left us on June 22, but not without leaving enough memories to fill the hearts of everyone he came across. Marshall’s heart was bigger than Texas and Georgia combined, and after it gave out, the outpouring of love and respect from those he touched has painted a beautiful illustration of a life well-lived.
The Austin golf community remembers him as a friend, an activist and one cool dude with some serious game. He was a fixture at Lions Municipal Golf Course — the spot where Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite learned the sport as young boys — and was a passionate supporter of the Save Muny fight, an ongoing drive to preserve the 96-year-old course for posterity.
“I played there with him in the city championship when I was 15,” recalled Crenshaw, who won three titles in Austin before going on to star at the University of Texas and then on the world stage. “General was a great part of Muny. He was such a good golfer and a beautiful person who always had a smile on his face. He was also a very learned man who had a real authority about him.”
Marshall played the game, coached the game and grew the game as a longtime contributor to the First Tee of Greater Austin, an organization whose goal is to instill in young people life-enhancing values and educate them through the game. Most of all, he loved playing, and he actually broke 80 in a round at the age of 80. “My husband was a golf nut,” Lavon Marshall said.
The city tournaments were hotly contested in the old days, and General Marshall was right there in the thick of things. “When I was growing up playing in those tournaments, General was one of those men competing, and when we were paired up, he was a joy to be around,” Kite said. “He was one of the golf icons in town.”
Long before Crenshaw and Kite came along, Marshall earned money as a 9-year-old in the mid-1940s at the segregated course as a caddie. He would earn 85 cents to carry a bag for a full round but was known for getting double pay for carrying two bags. His history is intertwined with Muny itself, dating all the way back to that day in 1951 when William Bacon happened upon two young Black caddies — Alvin Propps and another person whose name was lost over the years — hitting tee shots at No. 18.
Pictured above: Professional golfer and Austin native Ben Crenshaw speaks with General Marshall during the dedication of a National Register of Historic Places marker at Lions Municipal in 2016. "General was a great part of Muny. He was such a good golfer and a beautiful person who always had a smile on his face," Crenshaw recalled.
Playing golf after hours was a well-guarded secret among young African Americans such as Bacon and Marshall in the Clarksville community in the 1950s, but these two youngsters were hitting balls in broad daylight. Somehow, tolerance prevailed despite the segregated social climate in many parts of America at the time.
Marshall recalled to friends and family over the years the calming words of Austin City Council Member Emma Long, who said, “Just let them play.” The voluntary desegregation of Lions — four years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling — became a wonderful part of our city’s local history. Muny is believed to be the first course of its kind in the South to integrate.
Lavon Marshall remembers Sunday afternoon study sessions and family dinners at her home after church with her math classmate who had become her boyfriend. “He loved homemade rolls,” she said. “I was the server, but I was pretending to be the cook. My mom actually made them. After we got married, I burned breakfast one time, and he realized those weren’t my rolls.”
After they graduated from the old Anderson High, they went on to earn their college degrees in 1957 — she from Huston-Tillotson, he from Morehouse College in Atlanta. Two months later, they married and moved to Statesboro after the local high school principal — a Morehouse alum — hired Marshall at William James High.
Pictured above: Brother Marshall and shown with the other 10 initiates of Alpha Rho Chapter from Fall 1955.
He settled in as a math teacher and football coach. On the weekends, he waited tables at the American Legion Club for extra cash and officiated football, baseball and basketball games. His wife came aboard as the school secretary — a job that paid $50 a month — but increased her salary by another $25 doubling as the lunch room manager.
The Marshalls were a team whose work didn’t stop at the school. They spent nine years in Statesboro and were instrumental in integrating the public school that their children — Geoffrey, Karen and Tanya — attended, along with several local businesses and golf courses.
They returned to Austin in 1966 to work as educators at Huston-Tillotson while General Marshall was earning his master’s degree at Texas and later a doctorate at the University of Houston.
One of their students, Volma Overton Jr., had dreamed as a kid of a career as a professional golfer, but his dreams soon took a backseat to making a living. While Overton was working at Southwestern Bell in 1972, Marshall offered him a golf scholarship to Huston-Tillotson.
Overton, the son of longtime NAACP Austin chapter President Volma Overton Sr. and the nephew of legendary World War II veteran Richard Overton, enrolled and enjoyed a successful college golf career.
“I was like one of the family,” said Overton, now 72. “I had him coaching me and Mrs. Marshall as my career counselor. She was always getting on to me about what I was going to do after I graduated. She wanted to make sure I was going somewhere in life.”
Raising three kids in the 1960s and 1970s as educators and saving up for college wasn’t always an easy road, but the Marshalls persevered. When asked over the years why they didn’t pursue more lucrative careers than teaching, the answer never changed, Lavon Marshall said: “We do it for the people.”
“Through the years, we struggled financially, and at one point we had three children in college at the same time — Tulane, Xavier and U of H,” she said. “We stayed on our knees and prayed that we would have enough for the next semester.”
Their 63rd wedding anniversary was coming up at the end of this month and probably would have included dinner at Fleming’s. General Marshall was partial to a New York strip, cooked medium, with a baked potato and a salad on the side.
This space isn’t large enough to list all the honors Marshall received and the organizations of which he was a part, but his six decades at Ebenezer Baptist Church has to rank near the top: more than 25 years as chairman of the church’s board of trustees while serving as the church’s photographer the whole time.
Legacy isn’t a big enough word to describe what Marshall leaves behind. The eighth hole at Lions is called the General Marshall hole. In case you’re wondering, his first name is shared with both his maternal and paternal grandfathers. Lavon Marshall explained that when slaves were freed after the Emancipation Proclamation, many gave their children military titles instead of common names.
Tanya, the Marshalls’ youngest daughter, named her son Worthington G. Moore. The middle initial did not come with a name attached at first, but when Worthington turned 10, she asked if he would like to take on a middle name. The answer came without hesitation. Now Worthington General Moore is a member of Prairie View University’s cross-country team.