Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Education: Law School

BOND: Tell me about this environment at the law school. It surely is different from other law schools of the time.

MARSH: Yeah. We had the cream of the crop. Yale and Harvard and those schools hadn't opened up to blacks. So we have people not just out of college like myself, but we had people who had been teaching who were principals of schools who wanted to come back to the law school. We had mature people who were in their forties and fifties coming to law school. People who had been successful in life. Governor [L. Douglas] Wilder, for example, had been in the Army for three years and had worked while he was coming along in the medical department of state. He was returning, but he was three or four years older than some of us who were just out of college. So it was a mixture of people. In fact we had sixty-some students and they were very sophisticated. At the freshman party they sat at the table with the professors and beat them at poker, which was a dangerous thing to do for a law school freshman.

BOND: Yes, I'm sure.

MARSH: But they played poker and they hit on their girlfriends. I mean, the professors had their girlfriends there. Some of these students were so sophisticated they would try to get the telephone numbers.

BOND: That must be an exciting mix for a relatively young man, an exciting time.

MARSH: Yeah, I was afraid to do any of those things. I mean I didn't play poker and I wouldn't hit on a professor's girlfriend. I was amazed that people had that much nerve. But they took care of us. We started off at sixty-five and we ended up at about twenty-eight. So they had to separate the wheat from the chaff. They told us the first day of school. Said, "Oh, half of you won't be here because you're not law school material. Our job is to determine which of you can survive, and we're going to make sure. We're going to exact our pound of flesh."