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Mayor Henry Marsh

Mayor Henry Marsh being sworn into office

Mayor Henry Marsh

A Brief Biography

Henry Marsh was born in 1921 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Mr. Marsh went on to attend the Camden Academy in Alabama where he met his future wife, Ruth Eleanor Claytor. In 1942, Mr. Marsh was drafted into the U.S. Army and served until being honorably discharged in 1945. Following the war, he returned to Knoxville College, graduating in June 1947. After graduating, Mr. Marsh pursued a law degree at Wayne State University, graduating in 1950.

Mr. Marsh opened his law practice in Saginaw, Michigan in 1954 and became heavily involved in the Saginaw community. First elected to the Saginaw City Council in 1961, he eventually was appointed the city’s mayor in 1967. He was the first black mayor of Saginaw and believed to be one of the first three black mayors in the United States. Under Mr. Marsh’s leadership, Saginaw was declared an “All-American City” by Life Magazine.

Mr. Marsh retired from the board in 1969 but stayed active in the community. He went on to become a co-founder of the original First State Bank in 1974, serving as chairperson for the Board of Trustees. Additionally, Mr. Marsh served on dozens of organizations at the local, state and national level, including serving as chairman for a number of those organizations.

Henry Marsh received an honorary degree from SVSU in 1970. The former Saginaw mayor served on SVSU’s Board of Fellows, a community advisory board, until his passing May 11, 2011.

Mr. Marsh passed away in 2011 at the age of 89.

SVSU President Emeritus Eric R. Gilbertson delivered a eulogy at the funeral service for Marsh Saturday, June 4.


The Henry Marsh Institute for Public Policy is administered by the Office of Governmental and Community Affairs at Saginaw Valley State University with guidance from two advisory boards. Funding to support the Henry Marsh Institute for Public Policy is provided by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, Michigan associations, corporations, labor organizations, Henry Marsh Institute alumni, and individuals.