Butterfield Statement on the Passing of Durham Civil Rights Attorney William A. Marsh, Jr.
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) today released the following statement on the passing on Monday of William A. “Billy” Marsh, Jr., a renowned civil rights attorney in Durham, North Carolina:
“I am greatly saddened to learn of the passing of my dear friend and role model, Billy Marsh. Billy Marsh was a pioneering leader in our community, using his legal training to champion civil rights here and across the state. He was a key figure in school desegregation cases in Durham County and surrounding areas.
“Billy was a man of high distinction who dedicated his career to fighting for civil rights. He is an inspiration to today’s leaders, and I was, and will remain, honored to have shared in friendship with him. I wish to express my deepest condolences to his wife, Bernice, his children, his extended family, and his friends.”
William A. Marsh, Jr. was born and raised in Durham and graduated from North Carolina Central University and North Carolina Central University School of Law. He was the first Black chairman of the Durham County Board of Elections, as well as the first Black chairman of the North Carolina Board of Elections. In 1957, he served as legal counsel to the “Royal Ice Cream Seven,” Durham civil rights activists who defied a city ordinance denying them service on the “white” side of a popular local shop. The case took place three years before the more famous Greensboro sit-ins. He was also central to the school desegregation proceedings for Durham’s school system. He served as general counsel to the Mechanics and Farmers Bank, Mutual Community Savings Bank, and UDI Community Development Corporation. Marsh was also a pioneer in establishing the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers, where he served as president in 1975. His civil rights work has been recognized by the North Carolina Bar Association Hall of Fame, and in 2012, he was inducted into the General Practice Hall of Fame, which honors lawyers “who have made significant contributions to the cause of justice.”