Community mourns stalwart Walter Marshall

Walter Marshall stands with a picture of him and his fellow county commissioners at the Forsyth County Government Center last month.

Community mourns stalwart Walter Marshall
March 02
07:30 2017

Photo by Todd Luck 



Forsyth County is mourning longtime Forsyth County Commissioner Walter Marshall, 74, who passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

The sudden death of Marshall to natural causes came as a shock to his family and colleagues. The week before he died, he’d participated in a daylong work session with county staff and commissioners. He was getting ready to attend a conference in Washington, D.C. with other commissioners when he died.

The shock was still felt this week at his funeral on Tuesday at Emmanuel Baptist Church, where Marshall was a member and regular attendee.

“We’re all shook,” the Rev. Carlton Eversley, pastor of Dellabrook Presbyterian Church, told attendees.

Before he retired and became a commissioner, Marshall was a teacher and activist. Eversley described him as a “warrior teacher” who was part of a generation of leaders that helped shape the city. Eversley said he learned many things from Marshall, who he said was always fighting for the underdog.

Marshall became an advocate with the local NAACP chapter. He worked on the local Catherine Scott case school segregation case. He led several lawsuits as NAACP president in the 1980s, including two that resulted in district elections for county commissioners and school board, which let both boards have greater African-American representation. Marshall would go on to serve on both of them.

Marshall’s son, Malcolm,  said that work wasn’t always easy.

“My dad was a community man, he always took me out in the community,” he said. “I saw the good, the bad and the ugly.”

He said he remembers his father taking him to meetings, rallies and marches. But there were also calls in the middle of the night where they could hear “Dixie” playing in the background before the person on the other end hung up.“He endured a lot of hatred toward him because he wanted equality and justice,” said Malcolm.

Marshall’s granddaughter, Ashanti, and nephew, Guy, said that he also made time for his family by attending their events and recording all his grandchildren’s football games.

Marshall became county commissioner in 1997 when he replaced the late Mazie Woodruff. Mayor Allen Joines said he could be tough, but knew how to be soft spoken when he needed to be. Being a Democrat among a Republican majority county commissioners board, Marshall mastered the art of comprising without giving up his core values.

Many county employees and most of the commissioners filled the pews at the service. County Manager  Dudley Watts said that Marshall was a good friend and those in county government will miss him.

“I‘m honored that Walter would introduce me as his county manager when I went around the state and met with people,” said Watts.

Marshall was one of two commissioners representing District A, which is designed to give minorities in Winston-Salem a voice on the county commissioners board. State law states that county commissioners must approve a successor who is from the same party and district.

Forsyth County Democratic Party Chair Eric Ellison said the local party’s executive committee, which is comprised of the chairs and vice chairs from each precinct, will elect someone to fill the seat on March 14 at 6 p.m. at the Forsyth County Democratic Party Headquarters. Whoever is picked will have to run in 2018.

Ellison said the only person who’s officially requested to be considered for the nomination is Fleming El-Amin, whose tenure on the Forsyth County Board of Elections is over as of Wednesday. He handed in his resignation weeks ago in order to pursue an elected office, but couldn’t say which one before press time on Tuesday since he was still on the BOE.

Marshall, who had not planned to run for re-election, told The Chronicle last month that

El-Amin had expressed interest in running for his seat when it came up in 2018.

Marshall was known as a champion of the environment and equality as a commissioner. He said the diversity now found in the county staff was among his proudest achievements.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Paulette, his two children, Malcolm and Krista, and his three grandchildren, Ashanti, Ahmani and Khouri.

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