Sunday, January 17, 2010

Peter Marshall - Someone You Should Know

The personality of Peter Marshall flashed like a meteor across the conscience of America.  Regretfully, it was extinguished with his early death at 45. As U.S. Senate Chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Marshall challenged the best in the nation with his piquant and pointed references to the problem of the day in his prayers.

Peter Marshall was born in 1904 in Coatbridge, Scotland, in the industrial Clydeside.  His father died when he was four.  He studied engineering, and was encouraged to pursue his career in the U.S. where he arrived in 1927.  He worked in New Jersey and Birmingham, Alabama, where he was inspired to study for the ministry.

After graduation, he became pastor of a church in Covington, Georgia, and later in Atlanta.  By 1933, he was attracting large crowds with his sermons.  He moved to Washington where he was well known as the preacher at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.  Here, hundreds were turned away every Sunday.

He was asked to preach the Christmas sermon to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and family.   Before long he was appointed Chaplain to the Senate.  It was said that Senators started coming early just to hear his prayers which were widely quoted in national publications.  An editorial in the Atlanta Journal said, "His arresting pulpit personality holds his listeners enthralled by the dramatic forcefulness of his delivery."

He suffered severe heart pains in 1947 and died January 25, 1949.  Later, his wife Catherine of her husband, "There were things that Scotland contributed to Peter - as she does to all her sons - a sturdy independence that scorns hardship, a tenacity of purpose, and a deep appreciation of religion and political liberty with the will to defend it at any cost."

From the Scottish American Hall of Fame located at the Scottish Home in North Riverside, Illinois

There is a great amount of information on the Internet about Peter Marshall.  Over the years, I have spoken to the son several times and we do have some sermon material in the Scottish American Museum.

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