Distinguished professor emeritus Leon Marsh remembered for ‘selfless ministry’
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – James Leon Marsh, distinguished professor emeritus of foundations of education at Southwestern Seminary and pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Arab, Ala., died Dec. 12.
“Dr. Leon Marsh entered Glory today with recognition that probably surprised this faithful saint of God,” Southwestern president Paige Patterson said.
“Whether in the classroom or from a bed in declining health, his selfless ministry and enthusiastic embrace of the providence of God provided the backdrop for usefulness to the Savior that far surpassed any public acclaim he ever knew. During my term as president, I have had no more faithful a prayer partner and encourager than Leon Marsh. His journey to the other side makes heaven sweeter and many of us to long for it more than ever.”
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Marsh joined the Navy. He saw extensive combat in WWII and was wounded by a bullet to the chest that went through a small New Testament in his chest pocket.
A native of Arab, Ala., Marsh returned to the state and graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now known as Auburn University) in 1946. Feeling the call to vocational ministry, he moved to Fort Worth to come to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned his Master of Religious Education and Doctor of Education degrees.
Marsh served as a professor at Hardin-Simmons University from 1951-1956. During that time, he also served as assistant dean of students for the institution. In 1956, he returned to Southwestern to join the faculty in the School of Religious education, where he established and served in the Foundations of Education division for 30 years. From 1960-1979, Marsh served as director of doctoral studies in the education school and pioneered the transition from the Doctor of Religious Education to the Doctor of Education degree. During his time at Southwestern, he also became the first seminary professor to serve as a trustee of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Rick Yount, professor of foundations of education at Southwestern, knew Marsh as a professor, a mentor, and a friend.
"I am one of 8,000 students Dr. Marsh taught over 20 years of service,” Yount said. “His focus on lifelong learning, discipleship, and focused attention on spiritual growth have girded me over these 30 years as a faculty member here, and will continue to drive my teaching ministry."
Jack Terry, vice president emeritus and former dean of the School of Educational Ministries (now known as the Jack D. Terry Jr. School of Church and Family Ministries), also noted Marsh’s profound impact on his life and the life of the seminary.
“I loved the man dearly. He was like a father to me,” Terry said. “He mentored me through all of my work here. He brought me back to the seminary after I was in full-time church work.”
After Terry completed his doctoral work at Southwestern, Marsh recommended him as a professor at Hardin-Simmons. Terry taught there several years before Marsh again recommended him for a teaching position, this time at Southwestern.
“Of all the professors and faculty members I’ve ever known,” Terry said, “he was the most generous and considerate, and [he was] the very best friend that I ever had.”
Over the years, Marsh served as interim pastor in more than 40 churches and preached more than 200 revivals. He was preceded in death by his wife, Ruth, and brother, Dr. Ralph W. Marsh. He is survived by a brother, Dr. Glenn Marsh; two nieces, Dr. Martha Marsh, Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Towzen; five nephews and several great and great-great nieces and nephews.
Graveside memorial services will be held at Arab Memorial Cemetery in Arab, Ala., on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. with Dr. Paul Murphy officiating.