FORT SCOTT, Kan. — Kansas State Senator Bob Marshall passed on Wednesday, Sept. 20, at the age of 85. He is survived by three children, six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, a sister-in-law and brother-in-law. He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, a brother, and one grandchild. Marshall led a full and active life as a father and husband, an athlete, Marine, pilot, coach, and state senator from Bourbon County.
Born on Dec. 7, 1937, in Butler, Missouri, Marshall graduated from Warrensburg High School in 1956 before attending the University of Kansas on a football scholarship. During his four years at KU, Marshall distinguished himself as an all-around athlete, participating in four sports — football, basketball, baseball, and track.
As a freshman basketball player, he and teammate Wilt Chamberlain led the freshman team in besting the fourth-ranked varsity team. As a sophomore football player, Marshall set the school record for a punt return of 90 yards, a record that would stand for 30 years.
Graduating from KU in 1960 with a degree in engineering, Marshall was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and assigned to Pensacola, Florida, for flight training where he would become certified in the F-8 Crusader and assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron (All-Weather) VMF(AW)-122, “The Crusaders.”
During his active-duty years, Marshall’s squadron provided fighter cover for reconnaissance aircraft flying over Cuba during the missile crisis. During a training flight in the Philippines, Marshall was forced to eject moments before his aircraft exploded. Marshall left active duty in 1965, but remained in the reserves, retiring as a Colonel.
Upon leaving the Corps, Marshall went to work as an airline pilot. For the next 33 years, he flew for Braniff International, Piedmont Airlines, and US Airways. Because of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules, Marshall was forced to retire at the age of 60.
He and 100 other pilots filed a lawsuit to extend mandatory retirement to 65. Marshall lost the lawsuit, but the FAA did eventually raise the retirement age to 65; too late, however, for Marshall to return to the cockpit.
In retirement, Marshall moved to Fort Scott in southeast Kansas where he volunteered to coach football for the community college until being named Athletic Director in 2003. He stayed in that role until 2008, when he ran for a seat in the Kansas State Senate, replacing Democrat Jim Barone in representing District 13.
Serving a single term, Marshall served on the transportation, economic development, education and local government committees, where he secured additional dollars for engineering programs at KU, Kansas State University, and Wichita State University. In 2012, Marshall lost his reelection bid to Jake LaTurner during the Republican primary.
Returning to Fort Scott, Marshall served on the Fort Scott Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and was twice elected President of the Board. He also served on the boards of Mercy Hospital and the Kansas Food Bank.
Maintaining his ties to aviation, Marshall also served on the Fort Scott Airport Advisory Board and helped organize the Fort Scott Airport Day & Air Show.
Marshall and his wife, Judy, enjoyed their twilight years riding horses, attending KU games, and dining at the Nu Grille in Fort Scott. Judy passed earlier this year in July after 64 years of marriage.
Memorial services for Senator Marshall will be at the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Scott on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 11 a.m. with visitation beforehand at 10 a.m. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Cheney Witt Funeral Chapel, and Pastor Christopher Eshelman from the First United Methodist Church will preside over the service. At a later date, Marshall will be interred at the Fort Scott National Cemetery. Words of remembrance may be submitted to the online guestbook at cheneywitt.com.
Semper Fi, Marine.