Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Foundational Experiences

BOND: I'm getting ahead of myself here, I want to take you back to high school. In high school you were just active in an amazing amount of things – the NAACP, the editor of the school paper, you were president of the Student NAACP, vice president of the senior class. What is it that made you jump into all these activities?

MARSH: Maybe because I wasn't a good academic student, I picked the extracurricular activities. No. I've always liked people. I've always liked to get involved with people. And I joined NAACP because I was struck by what they were trying to do. Remember, in those days in segregated schools you could have NAACP chapters. When integration came, of course, that was no longer the case. But I just felt like it was a way of expressing myself. I had a little poet in me. I wrote the school poem, the school song, and I was editor of the paper. And that was a way of expressing myself.

BOND: The same kind of activity continues when you go to college.

MARSH: Yeah, I was involved in college. You see I've always liked people. I like to be involved with people.

BOND: At the same time you're working --

MARSH: Working.

BOND: Working your way through college.

MARSH: All the way except my senior year. I'd worked all the way through. My sister, who was a year ahead of me, had gotten a job. She said, "You never had a chance to show what kind of student you are. So I'm going to let you go to college your senior year without working," and she helped me. I was the -- Dr. [Thomas H.] Henderson called me in and said, "You're going to want to go to college. You want to be lawyer." He said, "Your grades aren't good enough." He said, "If you want to make Dean's List you better stop all this foolishness and concentrate." He said, "So I'm not going to let you get on the tennis team because you don't have time to study. I said, "Dr. Henderson, I'm going to get on the tennis team, and I'm going to make the Dean's List, too." He challenged me, and I did it. I got my only letter my senior year in college, being on the tennis team. I was so proud of that letter. But also in my major I got nine As and three Bs. I needed eight As and four Bs to graduate with honors. I got nine As and three Bs. I didn't have to worry.

BOND: Very good.

MARSH: And my professor challenged me -- Dr. McGuinn. I didn't like the challenge. So he would call on me everyday and I'd be ready for him.