David Marshall and Elizabeth Walker

Recorded October 7, 2019 Archived November 5, 2019 39:36 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019373


David Harrington Marshall, Jr. (72) tells his wife, Elizabeth Gayle Walker (73), about his community building efforts during the Northern Ireland conflict, his work in human rights with Amnesty International, and his time spent in China.

Subject Log / Time Code

DHM remembers going to Northern Ireland at the height of conflict.
DHM describes the work he was doing to integrate church-led community centers in Northern Ireland.
DHM remembers funny memories from his time in Northern Ireland.
DHM remembers continuing his human rights work with Amnesty International in Philadelphia.
DHM reflects on an important meeting with Protestant and Catholic stakeholders regarding Northern Irish rights.
DHM recalls coordinating letter writing with Syrian prison wards and elderly women in the U.S.
DHM remembers teaching debate in China.
DHM talks about his current involvement in the Lynching Sites Project in Memphis.


  • David Marshall
  • Elizabeth Walker

Recording Location

Crosstown Concourse

Partnership Type



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00:05 Hello, my name is David Harrington Marshall Junior. I'm 72 years old and today is Monday, October 7th, 2019. I'm in Memphis, Tennessee. And the name of I interview partner is Elizabeth Gail Walker and she is my wife.

00:30 My name is Elizabeth Gail Walker. I am 73 years old. Today is Monday, October 7th 2019. Where in Memphis Tennessee today? The name of my interview partner is David Harrington Marshall and he is my husband.

00:55 Sweetheart, I want to honor you today by listening to your story and regard to your work and human rights and to get to know you better around that subject as we enter into our 8th year of marriage. You have been involved in human rights as an advocation over the last 41 years.

01:22 You your ownership of the construction company allowed you to work 40 hours a month pro bono. I know a little bit about that. I know that you helped set up a Ronald McDonald House in Camden, New Jersey and you helped organize a crisis hotline in Burlington, New Jersey County, New Jersey, but I want to hear more about some specific human rights things. So if you would begin with the summer of 1975, when you went to Northern Ireland to fill fill that Ministry requirement that you had at PSC. I remember you felt a call to go there are you so I did I have relative we have we I have relatives from Northern Ireland. We haven't we've identified the county.

02:22 But we don't we haven't found it where they were born and raised in Northern Ireland was spoken in growing up in my family. I went there during the heart of the troubles Ian Paisley was an MP. I was involved here in Richmond, Virginia while I was in seminary and I remember reading about the World Council of churches making a world called for people to volunteer to integrate youth clubs in in the north of I win it sometime mid May and came back in the last weeks of August. I told my friends who were in Vietnam that I probably saw more combat then then they did.

03:24 We stayed in in first we stayed in East Belfast and then we moved up on the hill up closer to Stormont, which is the government site next to an army base in a Georgian mansion and going to bed at night was listening to bombs listening to gunshots looking at Fires at a distance. It was in both up on the side of Belfast Lough so that you could see across and up and down.

03:59 My job was to

04:03 Bring young adults really back into recreation centers run by the church's own welfare committee and I worked with 12 people from around the world. There were Orthodox. It was an orthodox. Priest. There was a Catholic priest that were Lutheran ministers from Germany Methodist ministers from Portland, Oregon Quakers from the north of Ireland. It was a good group. We did day-to-day tasks of saying that we're stronger than the the Protestants it was the Protestants that decided that they were going to throw the Catholics out of this integrated system and the Irish Council of churches felt that since the were only to integrated

05:01 Communities in the north of Ireland in the Protestants had destroyed one that perhaps it was best to do a world call. They laughed at us and said you're here because we can't get life insurance on Irishman, but we can get an insurance policy on you and

05:21 That was probably true. We open bingo games for the elderly. I personally got a van of the 15 people. I brought a date they came with a driver. We sent them home at night. I patted the van go by so they kiss them all. Goodbye. And they were ambushed about 20 minutes later and 130 machine gun bullets were put into the van. Well, it was a bad Ambush and they were going through a cut in the top of a hill and when they started shooting machine guns, shoot tend to shoot high that they jerk up. So the bullets went up the people went to the floor and is they drove through the cut in the road all the bullets missed them?

06:18 But we counted a hundred and Thirty full. It's entering not exiting. I think we accomplished a tremendous amount because we also worked the peace line. We did integrate to youth clubs. We we had daily.

06:46 It was hard to describe there was one or give you an idea of what it was like people valued communication. There was one available copying machine in in Belfast and everyone used it. Which meant

07:05 Then when I went to copy off times, it was an IRA member in front of me and a Protestant loyalists Orangemen behind me. And and there were these strange rules. Were you you really couldn't shoot or get angry it was because you couldn't copy. So if you wanted to organize meeting you had to be on your best behavior, and there was peace at the coffee machine was peace over the copy machine and I can remember going and having my work copied for some meeting. We were organizing and Anna in a body by the rules and knowing that there were Ira gunman in front of me and Protestant come in behind me. That was kind of surreal. Yes. Yeah. We did the normal things for youth group. We've organized basketball and young children's games and old people's Bingo and and bass.

08:05 We brought the community back in into into existence. We did the same thing in Banbridge, which was South in our mama down in the Badlands.

08:16 So you were really trying to create a sense of normal being normal Community normal and I missed it in the beginning. I was The Village Idiot, like we all work. I had a I had a codon for instance that was green orange and white had a stripe and I didn't realize that that was the colors of the Republic in the Protestant East Belfast and in these two guy, I got off the bus and these two guys are like in here come here and I instinctively I knew not to go to him and I got back on the bus and the bus driver said you don't know what you're doing. You're wearing the tricolours you damn fool a beanie litter and I thought yeah. Yeah it was.

09:11 You go with your common sense, but you don't realize what what's important and you're stepping into a totally different culture having into a war zone and

09:32 Yeah, I'm trying not to talk with the violence. There was a lot of violence when I came home. I'll give you an idea of the level of violence the military police Road in the special car. That was very distinctive and I went back to Philadelphia and I was walking with my father down the street and around the car around the corner came this car and I jumped behind the mailbox and left my father standing there and he looked at me and said what's happened. Where are you and I was crouched down behind to my mailbox. Yeah, that that's where the hell it came home. I know that you came home. It was a dangerous place to be and I know that you can respond to me. It was pure Irish fun to I mean we had Kaylee's and sing songs and sing-alongs and I had a very distinctive helmet that I was.

10:32 They said you won't get shot with us. They they painted a lambretta motor scooter.

10:39 Silver with with maroon stripe and then gave me a hat a helmet that was silver with a maroon stripe. And of course all the kids wanted to try it and I got head lice and

10:53 They they they had a Kelly going away from going home. I had to Kelly the wrap it up and Kaylee Kaylee a big party at with music and song and they're going to send me back to my wife and I'll listen and they they put me in the center of the room filled me with good Irish, whiskey and then every Everybody took turns picking the nits out of my hair.

11:20 That's an unusual truth committed to going and give me something good about by filter about it. We were up in the mountains of the morn. We took youth group and we ran into the SAS and you just couldn't get away from the military you you could take kids camping but the SAS were doing Maneuvers and they all came out on helicopters in front of pay left a drum ropes and in front of all these kids in our tents and they they all

12:05 Went up on ropes and just floated away like like dewdrops experience. It was very different. It was peace making in in the midst of chaos trying to create more mallisee in the midst of Chaos.

12:24 Thank you.

12:27 Are you ready to move? Yes, let's go to the Amnesty International chapter of Philadelphia. I know that you were there from about 1978 to 1983 and you begin with the country campaign of for Northern Ireland. Yes where you met Chris Roberts and her good friend and he was the treasurer of amnesty at that time. Tell me about that.

12:59 I I was involved in I always felt that I was involved in human rights. I took my knowledge of Northern Ireland in went into amnesty wondering what I could do and what I learned was that both the Protestants in the Catholic armies were trying to develop prisoners of conscience to develop.

13:26 Publicity program it was a huge Plum apprised to have a prisoner of conscience and they were both trying to have have prisoners in Long Kesh.

13:41 Which was the British prison?

13:44 Who were declared prisoners prisoners of conscience was meant that they had done no violence and it simply been locked up for political or religious ideas when people found out that I have been to the north and that had experience.

14:04 They said would you handle this? My president said to me I can't handle this you you've got to do this David and at that point. I've been doing the 40 hours a month and I had time so Phyllis said you do it. Chris is secretary. He's doing other things. So I began to vet with New York State prisoners of conscience and I would say would we had people within our amnesty meetings who represented Northern Ireland they were very specific and they came with an or Aid and Northern aid for Northern Ireland and they came with the Irish caucus what I didn't know that was the Philadelphia was the hot seat for radical views on Northern Ireland and that there was a massive fundraising program going on buying guns.

15:04 What's up, because there's so many Irish who settled in Philadelphia what they were more.

15:11 They were more rebellious. They were more violent tending. They they tended to support the fringes of of of art the Irish government both on the Catholic and on the Protestant side.

15:26 They started giving us names and I started working with New York and one day I was in my construction business which was paying for all this and I was working for a professor at Rutgers University of Rodger Clark and telling him about what I did and he said he was in he was vice president Human Rights Watch and I started telling him details and listing names and what I didn't know was that he had friends on the peace initiative the peace that the Irish peace caucus and forget the gentlemen's the professor's name, but he was at Galway University.

16:13 And he gave the names over as I gave. I work there a couple weeks and as I was getting names I was working and giving him to Rodger. Well, he passed them along and then names of

16:31 British excuse me, Irish Catholic or Irish Protestant prisoners in Long cash or other military prisons and Rodger came back to me and he said, you know, I passed those names on to the Peace Commission. He said they're telling me that the your sources are better than their sources and they think they're talkin to the top people in the IRA and then the loyalist armies and their conclusion is that they like to meet your people because they don't know who the hell they are. But but they think they're closer to the source.

17:09 So

17:11 We organised we had a big discussion.

17:16 Phyllis and Chris and I and another woman named Phyllis and we decided that we couldn't hold a meeting in any place except a neutral third-party. So we held it at the Philadelphia ethical society when was found by there and

17:41 We held the meeting there. The Catholic participant showed up. The Protestants showed up. They sat on the benches the Protestants in the back the Catholics in the front and it was a long table and in Kingdom the Irish peace delegation and someone got up and read a letter letter from George Mitchell's giving the unequivocal support of the United States and whatever was necessary.

18:13 The peace delegation got up and said gentlemen, this is going to be really short. You've simply got to lay your guns down. This is not going to work unless you lay your guns down and it's some point you're going to have to turn your guns in they went on to say that everyone knew there have been six failed attempts at up a ceasefire and that the reason for the ceasefire was this group of of Philadelphia. He said that the moderates had had been meeting and the radical Fringe has had not participated and that they knew the Peace Commission knew that they were Radical Fringe has represented in Philadelphia and that it was time to bring the radical fringes into the conversation.

19:10 And he said what I'd like to know is who you are who you represent because I don't have a clue. He said we can't imagine who you're talkin. Who who who who the amnesty chapters been talking to so we'd like you to give your name and

19:30 Tell us who you represent and the first first man stood up and said I'm a William Thomas and I represent Jerry Adams and I almost fell off the chair because he was the commander of the Belfast Brigade and

19:49 Then Frank

19:51 McGinty stood up and said I I represent Jerry Adams so I can speak for Jerry Adams and then the Protestants stood up and it was two women one who was a cashier?

20:05 In a cafeteria in a mental hospital that I had visited and I knew this woman and she said I can speak for all the orange all the loyal orange Waters and

20:22 I just couldn't I buy was dumbfounded So within an hour.

20:29 They had agreed to take the peace proposals back and the ceasefire held in the Brilliance of it was they said that if if they would lay their guns down they would give them real political representation in within the British government up to the level of prime minute up to the level of Member of Parliament and within two years. Gerry Adams was a member of parliament as we're other Protestants and Catholics up besides he and Paisley's free Presbyterian wing.

21:07 You must have felt like the Earth Stood Still at that meeting it was you talk about surreal it. I mean, I don't remember what day it was on but there were there was traffic and there were people walking up and down the street and it was a warm day and was sunny and I thought my God it's over get this this looks like it may work and it and it held in from there within two years. They had it was all in in concrete and and what came out of it was The Paisley and

21:49 I can't remember the

21:53 The Protestant to Catholic coach shared power in in Northern Ireland and it it held the PeaceHealth is it if he takes my breath away that you were part of that it was based on it on a mutually of trust. They trusted us. They knew that we were that we were doing doing what was right and they knew that we would be fair.

22:27 I want to close it by saying.

22:31 To give you a vignette that there was always an undercurrent of how serious this was. We weep sometime in the middle of the organization over the. This took three years.

22:44 Sometime in the middle of the organizational phase probably about a year-and-a-half in we went to a meeting of nor Aid in Irish caucus and then we're about three hundred people there and they welcomed us with it was Phyllis and and I was there and Chris was there and they were all they were ecstatic that Amnesty International with representative would come out and and and listen to their their their issues and we were sincere but this little little guy came over to Phyllis and she sort of jerked in her seat and when it was over she said, you know what he said to me I said, no, she said he smiled at me and said if we fuck this up he was going to personally shoot her kneecaps off.

23:34 See you either you were dealing with that level of violence. We were dealing we were we were dealing with

23:44 With honest men hard men, they called themselves Hard Men and that's a in Northern Ireland. That's a type.

23:54 We were we never lost track of the fact that that we were dealing in human lives. This wasn't some

24:04 Peace festival this this was the faster this happened the better it was going to turn out but it was totally honest and totally sincere and and we were dealing with human lives and we were and if we if we screw it up we were going to get kneecapped that mean that was a promise that accept that yeah, they would have I've seen all those guys walking in the streets. Then you get two weeks to leave the country. They they warned you for two weeks, then they shoot you if they give you two weeks to recover and then you get your you're going to be just getting on a boat and walk away fly on an airplane.

24:46 I'm proud of your involvement in that there was no running. There was no.

24:56 I think there was also some letter-writing campaigns for amnesty and that you read those for Syria and Port Elizabeth South Africa. I I just want to mention Syria because Syria in in the 80s in the 70s and 80s was really close to to influence bye-bye appeal assault the father of Sade was on the throne and he decimated Holmes h o m s a city

25:32 Nobody could employ nobody could.

25:37 Point him in the right direction and I had said this to a group of people that I was responsible for setting up to write letters and some of them are grandmothers.

25:48 And they were 70 and 80 year old women and and they said well, what should we write? We've never done this and I said well right like you're writing to your grandson. I said just chatty chatty. Just tell him who you are and what you're doing and how are you I said like they're in college or and we're writing to prison wardens is it was all we had a whole series of prison wardens. We were responsible for and my goodness State they responded if we had let her know who responded the prison wardens in an amnesty New York was the static and it was like keep it going. Nobody. We were sending one of them admitted that he was getting between 2000 and 2500 letters a month and that he didn't think anybody knew him and and he was terrified because he

26:48 He told this older woman. He said, you know, I've got a wife and kids and nobody knows what I do and I thought I was alone and all these eyes are watching him a riser watch it. And here comes this grandmother like Miss Marple like it was historical. So we we realized I realized that the humanness that that we simply had to crack the human this issue. How how do you get cold-blooded Mass killers and and and break them so that they they they want to talk. They they want to be a part of the human community and and we exceeded

27:36 We we had some success we did kind of the same thing. We had some successes and letter-writing campaigns and we got to that we were given not one but two prisoners of conscience to support specifically they would they have been identified. They were they have been cleared vetted and we were to provide moral emotional spiritual help through our letters to our personal writing to the prisoners and one of the prisoners had said that he had been arrested in while he was in school or he been in, he he been retraining and he wanted to go back to it and he had lost everything and and

28:25 Not once but twice we pay showed us that it was legitimate that we weren't going to be sending money to buy guns or anyting he Strode is tuition bills and and what it would cost to do a semester in some school in Port Elizabeth. Then we sent almost $1,000 at which was a terrible sacrifice for the club. We actually had a fundraiser or several fundraisers to

28:52 To support him that the story doesn't end there 30 years goes by and you and I go to Mississippi Boulevard church here in Memphis to hear about a Bozarth bozak from South Africa who was with Nelson Mandela and he talks about his area of responsibility was Port Elizabeth and I almost fell over. I remember that you were sitting in the Pew next to me and I'm like, oh my gosh, this is the guy who was who was doing what we were doing butt on the ground. He was these were his people and that's how we felt that these were our people

29:38 I thought I felt very humbled after the meeting was after the service was over. This debate discussion was over I went to his wife and his daughter they were they were in the background and

29:58 I explained to her who I was and that I just wanted to pass him a message. I didn't he was there was a line of my gosh. There were 200 people in line waiting patiently just to shake his hand and I thought I don't want to take that away from them. I'll just tell him you know, I was I was in the Iran the amnesty Prisoner of Conscious and how happy I was I was crying. I remember I was really I was just filled with tears. I was just so appreciative to finally

30:30 How to have your work confirmed? Yeah. Yeah. It has to be real and connection 10 minutes. Yeah, so she said listen, you got to talk to my husband and in front of two hundred people. She pulled me up and said Allen listen to what he has to say. He listened. I cried he cried in 200 people stood there like what is going on and and we just talked was very emotional crying if you did. Yeah, that's a beautiful story.

31:12 Wow. Yeah what next well, I was thinking in mm your

31:21 Human rights involvement begin in Philadelphia, and it moved to China and that was when you met Professor Lu Ling Ling Ching Li University in China, and she was staying at temple with law students from her school and you she was writing a book on economics for the 14th party Congress. I think she was writing on how much how much success or money is enough. How how rich should we expect the middle class to become and they were looking at are middle-class and they the decision has been made that China could never reach the the level of of

32:17 Affluent fluence are middle-class could but they could achieve it was totally capable of Qi a cheating lower-middle-class affluence and she wanted to know how it worked in America. So

32:36 I

32:38 Became her gofer. I became her idea man. I became her statistician first. I was so sure once again I had time and I had a car and we drove to housing projects in flea markets in second hand stores looking at how the cash cash economy work without people living without credit cards. That's a story in itself. But she also then link to pictures cheating in China and you started the Oxford University debating if she said she needed someone to beer statistician I said, I would go with her was 31 days and five thousand miles.

33:23 Out of it. I said that I would like to teach English as a second language.

33:31 +

33:33 I chose the city. I started teaching during the SARS.

33:40 +

33:44 I taught I taught argument they said would you teach argument I said I'd rather teach debating. So we talked to an Oxford University debating. I said that's the first world nation. So how about if we use the the rules from South Africa a developing third world country is so we use South African debating book 4.

34:11 And that was kind of during the beginning of the poem democracy. That was the beginning of the pro-democracy movement and I realized early on that. I wanted to support that so I came away saying that I taught 7000 students to say no and and I probably did it was a very confused the more I studied the Chinese School System the more I realized how it was overlaid with Confucianism and they had a feel healed Duty 222 the people above them and blow them and they could never say no to the people above them and they could they only had to say yet they were obligated to say, yes. So actually we met after that. I'm just sitting too kind of pull it together.

35:07 How to bring it to the present you and I are now participating in the lynching sites project Memphis and one of your interest is the story of Nathan Bedford Forrest who owns a very large slave auction at 2nd and Adams Street Memphis and the fact that Forest built that slave auction across from St. Peter's Catholic Church, which was there 14 years before his slave auction has really captured your imagination. You don't want to say something about that. We went to the

35:50 Celebration of the plaque that named at Rhodes college that Rhodes college students developed they developed all the information and I stood there and I looked at this Catholic Church in the way that it sort of loomed and I said there's a story here.

36:10 And what I didn't know and what what really knocked Nathan Bedford Forrest off his horse was the fact that he put a slave auction at the front door of a of a gorgeous church, and when the parishioners walked in and walked out the front door literally across the street 25-30 ft across the street was the slave auction.

36:39 That was arrogance. I thought and what he didn't realize was that they weren't priest that they were monks and nuns and what I knew was that they were under spiritual Direction which meant that they had Carrie Diaries and they wrote daily and trees about issues that they were to take under under consideration for Spiritual their spiritual director. I talk to Brother Andy. He said that all the Diaries are in Providence, Rhode Island at the Chapter House of the Dominicans and I have the names of 10 of the men who were there before the end of the Civil War and were in the process. I'm in the process now of uncovering.

37:34 What what is in the Diaries and I said to Father Andy? I just need one righteous man who saw something horrific on one day and we have first-person accounts of atrocities in the first person. We have courtroom testimony Pages upon hundreds of pages upon tens of years and you're helping to find a man. That's what I'm hoping to find and I've taken it to her senior researcher with the lynching size project and she said that I've increased the knowledge on Nathan Bedford Forrest by a factor of 10. Someone else said that there's 5 to 10 phds thesis in this and I

38:24 You know, I'm I'm yeah, I think we got them your involvement in human rights continue to use. Yeah, as of as of tomorrow and the next day and not my next job is to go to Providence, Rhode Island.

38:44 And that's how it ends. Yeah, it's over. I really appreciate your sharing that I've you know over the eight years. We've been together. I've heard pieces of that but never had it put together so clearly and I think that this is an important story for our for your for children and our grandchildren to the future is going to be good thing you two, this is some I can't thank you enough for doing this for finding this this this was important. This was a real gift. Yeah.

39:28 What husbands and wives do?