Shenandoah County – Former Secretary of the Army John O. “Jack” Marsh, Jr., 92, of Shenandoah County, Virginia passed away Monday, February 4, 2019, at Blue Ridge Christian Home in Raphine, Virginia.
A native of Virginia, Jack was born in Winchester in 1926, attended public schools in Harrisonburg, enlisted in the Army and was commissioned from Officers Candidate School in 1945 at the age of 19. He served with the U.S. occupation forces in Germany. From 1954 to 1976 Jack served in the Army Reserves and the Virginia National Guard 29th Division. He graduated from the Army Airborne and Jumpmaster Schools earning Senior Parachutist Wings, retiring from the National Guard as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Upon Jack’s return from military service he earned a law degree in 1951 from Washington and Lee University and started a law practice in Strasburg, Virginia. Over the next ten years, Jack would serve his community as Town Attorney of New Market, Shenandoah County School Board, and Strasburg Town Magistrate. He was active in the local Jaycees that won national awards for their Liberty Tree project, and in 1959 he was recognized by the Jaycees as Virginia Young Man of the Year. Jack would always reflect that this decade in the Valley was the foundation of his political career.
Jack was elected as a Virginia Representative in Congress, serving four terms from the Seventh District of Virginia (1963-1971). Choosing not to seek a fifth term, he resumed the practice of law.
In 1973 Jack returned to federal service as Assistant Secretary of Defense (Legislative Affairs) and in 1974 became Assistant for National Security Affairs to Vice President Ford. After eight months he became Counselor, with Cabinet Rank, to President Ford. In this position Jack had oversight of the Amnesty program and directed the Legislative Affairs program for the Ford White House. As a result of Jack’s ongoing dedication, an Executive Order by the President affirmed the reform and reorganization of the Intelligence community in 1976. At the request of President Ford, Jack chaired the transition of the Ford Administration to the Carter Administration.
In 1981 Jack was sworn in as Secretary of the Army. Upon his retirement in 1989 Jack’s tenure was the longest of any Secretary of the Army or Secretary of War in the history of the Republic, at which the United States Senate adopted a resolution commending his stewardship as Army Secretary. After his retirement in 1989 Jack undertook a special assignment as Legislative Counsel to Secretary of Defense Cheney for the development of legislative recommendations to streamline the defense procurement process. From 1989-1994 Jack served as Chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board, a position he was appointed to by former Secretary of Defense Cheney. This was an advisory body in the Defense Department relating to all the U.S. National Guard and Reserve Forces, and subsequently for Secretary of Defense Perry, Jack chaired the panel on Quality of Life for members of the Armed Forces and their families.
A highly honored and loyal patriot, Jack was awarded on six occasions the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award and decorated by the governments of France and Brazil. Jack holds the Presidential Citizens Medal; was the recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service; and in 1990 was selected by the Virginia Press Association to receive the “Virginian of the Year” award. He was chosen by the Association of the United States Army as recipient of the George Catlett Marshall Medal for Public Service. In 1996 The John O. Marsh, Jr. Armory, a Virginia National Guard facility in Woodstock, Virginia was named in Marsh’s honor.
Jack served for over two decades on the Advisory Council of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) and received the VIMS Pathfinder Award. His service with VIMS brought him close to his grandfather’s home in Reedville, Northumberland County. In his later years, Jack would spend much time in Reedville where he was often spotted rowing his wooden skiff along the salty creeks that surround the village. Jack served on the Board of Visitors at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia and was one of the few elected as an Honorary Alumni of the Institute. He received the first Harry F. Byrd, Jr. Public Service Award in 2002 and was also awarded the Distinguished New Market Medal.
His wife, Glenn Ann Marsh, whom he married on July 22, 1950 in Winston Salem, North Carolina preceded him in death in 2015.
Jack Marsh had an honored and illustrious career, but he was a humble man who never lost sight of his deep ancestral roots in the Northern Neck and the Shenandoah Valley. Jack and Glenn Ann enjoyed their private life and benefited from having their residence in Strasburg, Shenandoah County. Jack was a dedicated father, and loved and mentored his grandchildren who called him “Jack”. He enjoyed his special time with his family and grandchildren, often driving with them along Route 11 discussing the history of Virginia in an entertaining and meaningful way. He rarely discussed his long list of awards and accomplishments and chose to focus on the special interests of each child and grandchild. Jack had an incredible knowledge of the Bible. His children and grandchildren remember when he would ask “what day is it?” and they would reply “its Sunday”, and he would say “yes, remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”. Jack was a member of Strasburg Presbyterian Church.
Surviving is a daughter, Rebecca Whitener (Russell) of Pulaski, Virginia; sons, Dr. Rob Marsh (Barbara) of Middlebrook, Virginia and Scot Marsh (Susan) of Winchester, Virginia; grandchildren, Kate Marsh Kandada (Adi), Adam, Sally, Mattie, Isabelle, Ben, and Doug Marsh.
A Funeral Service will be conducted at 1:30 PM on Friday, February 15th, at New Market Battlefield State Historical Park in the New Market Hall of Valor, 8895 George Collins Parkway, New Market, Virginia with Col. Robert E. Phillips and Reverend Patrick Malphrus officiating. Interment will be in New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, New Market, Virginia.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Jack’s memory to VMI Foundation in support of the Virginia Military Institute, P.O. Box 932, Lexington, Virginia 24450 or via the website at www.vmi.edu/foundation.