Senator

Henry Marsh

  • District: 16
  • Member since: 1992
  • Localities represented: Chesterfield County (Part); Dinwiddie County (All); Hopewell City (Part); Petersburg City (All); Prince George County (Part); Richmond City (Part)
  • Committees: Transportation; Courts of Justice; Finance; Local Government

Henry L. Marsh, III, an honors graduate of Maggie L. Walker High School, received a B. A. degree from Virginia Union University, Cum Laude, in 1956 and earned his law degree at Howard University in 1959. He is a member of the Virginia Bar and is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Supreme Court of the United States, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

Marsh began his legal career in 1961 with the firm of Hill, Tucker and Marsh and became a partner in 1966. Upon joining the firm, he immediately enlisted in the fight against the policy of “massive resistance”, Virginia’s response to the Brown v. Board of Education case.   Over the next two decades, Marsh handled more than fifty cases against school boards across the state involving desegregation.  The case of Brewer v. School Board of City of Norfolk set the standard of requirements for school districts to formulate adequate desegregation plans as well as provide free transportation for students.  Over 25 school cases were litigated by Marsh following the Brewer decision, including Walston v. County School Board of Nansemond County, Va., and Giles v. Franklin County, where he fought against discrimination in employment, retention, and promotion of African American teachers.

Additionally, Marsh has been involved in some of the most important civil rights cases in Virginia and the United States for more than forty years.  Under his lead, Quarles v. Philip Morris was the first case in the country litigated on the merits of race discrimination in employment and it set the legal precedent for outlawing departmental seniority systems and requiring equal pay for comparable work under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.     Subsequent to Quarles, Marsh successfully litigated over 20 employment discrimination cases, most of which were class-action cases, representing thousands of African American and female litigants.  After serving as lead counsel at the trial level, he argued Patterson v. American Tobacco Company before the Supreme Court of the United States. Marsh was also counsel in Gravely v. Robb, which resulted in single-member districts for the General Assembly of Virginia.  Still actively practicing law, he is considered one of the leading trial and appellate attorneys in Virginia and has received numerous honorary degrees and awards.

Henry Marsh served on the Richmond City Council from 1966 to 1991.  The respect he earned from his colleagues and the public was demonstrated by his election as Vice-Mayor in 1970, and in 1977 by his election as Richmond’s first African- American Mayor.

In 1991, Marsh was elected as Senator of the 16th Senate District.  He won the Democratic nomination for the newly created senate district by a wide margin over four strong competitors.  He was re-elected to serve a second term in the Virginia State Senate in 1995, a third term in 1999, a fourth term in 2003, and a fifth term in 2007.

For more than forty years, Henry Marsh has served his city, state and nation as a leader in government and civic affairs.  In 1981, while serving as Mayor of Richmond, he was the host Mayor of the National Conference on the Black Agenda for the 80’s in Richmond, Virginia. This historic event, attended by 1,500 leaders, marked the only gathering in the nation’s history of a broad cross- section of African American local, state and federal officials.

He was a co-founder of Richmond Renaissance, a biracial public-private partnership whose goals were to preserve, promote and develop the City of Richmond. He was also co-founder of the Metropolitan Economic Development Council, which helped to bring scores of new businesses and thousands of jobs to Central Virginia.  He was founder of Blacks Mobilized Against Crime which helped to raise community awareness of crime prevention.  He has served as President of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials and as a member of the Board of Directors of the National League of Cities.          

Marsh currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, Chairman of the Capital Outlay Subcommittee for Senate Finance, Chairman of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission and Chairman of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program. He serves on the Senate Rules, Finance, Local Government, and Transportation Committees. He is a board member of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Living History and Public Policy Center.

Senator Marsh’s numerous awards for public service and leadership reflect appreciation from a diverse group of supporters. Most recently he received the “Legislator of the Year Award” from Virginia Cure (2007) and the Virginia Sheriff’s Association (2006). In 1998, he was the recipient of the Virginia Power “Strong Men and Women, Excellence in Leadership Award”. Among his other awards are “Laureate of Virginia” (1979), Metropolitan Business League “Award of Distinction” (1993), National Conference of Christians and Jews “Humanitarian Award” (1994), First Presbyterian Church “Equality and Justice Award” (1995), Partners for Livable Communities “Bridge Builders Award” (1997), Richmond Crusade for Voters “Outstanding Achievement Award”, Friends of Farrakhan “Leadership in Government Award” (1999), Allstate Insurance Company “From Whence We Came Award” (2000), Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy “2003 Legislator of the Year”. He is a frequent recipient of awards from churches, social, civic, and professional organizations for his role in civil rights and continued dedicated public service. Marsh received honorary degrees from Virginia Union University, his alma mater and from St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia.

He is married to Dr. Diane Harris Marsh, and has three children, four grandsons and two granddaughters.

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