Right the Record: Mortimer Mercer Marshall, Sr.


Portrait of Moritmer Marshall

Mortimer Mercer Marshall Sr. was born in Culpeper on April 18, 1892. He attended college in Virginia, Toronto, Canada, and Pennsylvania where he received degrees in Political Science, and Mortuary Science. He was a man of many talents serving as a Secret Service Agent, a civic activist, and as a mortician in Washington, DC and later in Culpeper.


  • He was born on April 18, 1892, in the Town of Culpeper, Virginia to Reverend Lewis Lambert Marshall of Culpeper and Lydia Marie Virginia (L.M.V.) Thomas of Maryland.
  • He received his early education at the black Culpeper Graded School (later aka Culpeper County Training School). His father, mother, and Rev. Willis J. Madden were among his early teachers.
  • He continued his education at what is now Virginia Union University and also McMasters University in Toronto, Canada earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science; and later Eckels College in Philadelphia, PA earning a second degree in Mortuary Science.


  • Marshall was a Secret Service Agent (prohibition agent) in the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C. in the early 1930’s
  • Marshall was a licensed funeral director and embalmer. He returned home to his native Culpeper and established Marshall Funeral Service in 1934 on the south side of the 200 block of East Davis Street. Later the business was moved across the street to the north side at 246 East Davis Street.
  • He organized the Culpeper Colored American Legion Post No. 184 in August 1938 and was chosen as the first Commander the following month.
  • During WWI, he served in the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant.
  • During and after WWI, Marshall was one of the most popular undertakers in Georgetown in Washington, D.C.
  • He founded Unit 7058 of the NAACP in Culpeper in 1945. On September 14, 1953, it became the first Chartered Branch in Culpeper and Mr. Marshall served as President.


  • Marshall’s wife, Ruth M. West Marshall, daughter of Walter Wellington West, was also a licensed funeral director and worked alongside him in his funeral home until her death on November 18, 1967.
  • Being very active in business, community, civics and politics, Mr. Marshall was committed to equality for all citizens, especially for African Americans regarding voting, education, employment, equal justice, and veterans’ affairs.

Newspaper photo of Johnson's grocery store


  • In the early 1970’s, Marshall opened the funeral home’s second location at his residence at 1202 Orange Road in Culpeper for funeral viewings and visitations.
  • He further served the Culpeper community and the surrounding counties by expanding his funeral business to include an ambulance service to those in need until state regulations changed laws in January 1979 for funeral home establishments.
  • Marshall-Galbreath Building was named in honor of Mortimer M. Marshall, Sr.’s service to the efforts in the African American school system in Culpeper and James Clifford (J.C.) Galbreath principal of A.G. Richardson Elementary School 1960-1966 and Sycamore Park Elementary 1966 – until retirement in 1980. This building is now the location of Culpeper County Kids Central Day Care.


  • Marshall died on September 7, 1979, and is buried in the Culpeper National Cemetery (Old Section) with his wife.
  • Proud of both sons and their respective achievements in life: Morty, Jr. was a licensed architect who owned his own firm and West, was a highly regarded medical doctor.
  • Both sons are now deceased: Lewis West Marshall, Sr., M.D., F.A.C.P. January 23, 2014, and Mortimer Mercer Marshall, Jr. June 13, 2018.

The Marshall Funeral Service

Mortimer Marshall’s Funeral Service was located at 246 East Davis Street.
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