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Marshall, Catherine (1914–1983)

Marshall, Catherine (1914–1983)

American author of the bestselling A Man Called Peter . Name variations: Catherine LeSourd; Mrs. Peter

Marshall. Born Sarah Catherine Wood on September 27, 1914, in Johnson City, Tennessee; died on March 18, 1983, in Boynton Beach, Florida; daughter of John Ambrose Wood (a minister) and Leonora (Whitaker) Wood; Agnes Scott College, B.A., 1936; married Peter Marshall (1902–1949, a Presbyterian minister), on November 4, 1936; married Leonard Earle LeSourd (an editor and publisher), on November 14, 1959; children: (first marriage) Peter John Marshall.

Selected writings:

Mr. Jones, Meet the Master (1949); A Man Called Peter (1951); Christy (1967); The Helper (c. 1980).

Following the death of her first husband Peter Marshall, Catherine Marshall produced two of the bestselling works of nonfiction of the 1950s: a collection of her husband's sermons entitled Mr. Jones, Meet the Master, and A Man Called Peter, a biography of her husband.

A pastor's daughter, Marshall was born in 1914 in Johnson City, Tennessee, and moved with her family to Mississippi and then West Virginia, where she graduated from Keyser High School in 1932. Following four years at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, she planned to return to West Virginia to teach school and write books. Instead, she married Peter Marshall, a Scottish minister, in 1936, and moved with him to Washington, D.C.

After serving as "pastor's helpmate" for eight years, Marshall contracted tuberculosis and spent over two years in bed before her recovery in the summer of 1945. She lost her husband in January 1949, when he died of a heart attack just two years after becoming chaplain of the U.S. Senate. "My really valuable inheritance," she later wrote, "was two quite ordinary-looking cardboard filing boxes filled with sermon manuscripts." Along with a biographical sketch of her late husband that she wrote, her selection of 12 sermons and 13 prayers was published in the fall of 1949 as Mr. Jones, Meet the Master. The book made the national bestseller list and remained there for almost a year.

When her biography A Man Called Peter was published in 1951, it became a bestseller within ten days, and remained on the list for over three years; over one million copies were sold. The Women's National Press Club cited Catherine Marshall's "literary achievements and her contribution to the reawakening of national interest in spiritual welfare" when making its "Woman of the Year" award to her in 1953. Twentieth Century-Fox produced a film version of A Man Called Peter in 1955, starring Richard Todd and Jean Peters .

A member of the National League of American Pen Women and Phi Beta Kappa, Marshall taught at the National Cathedral School for Girls in Washington, D.C., from 1949 to 1950. She published many magazine articles and wrote, edited, co-authored, and introduced another 17 books. She also worked as an editor for Guideposts Magazine from 1960, and served as partner and treasurer of Chosen Books Publishing Co., from 1968. She received honorary degrees from Cedar Crest College, Taylor University, and Westminster College.

In 1967, she published a novel, Christy, based on her mother's experiences as a teacher in the Tennessee mountains in the late 19th century. Christy was named "Paperback of the Year" by Bestsellers magazine in 1969. By the time of Marshall's death from heart failure in 1983, there were four million copies in print. Christy has since reached younger readers through the "Christy Juvenile Fiction" series, 11 of which had been published by 1997. In 1980, another of her books, The Helper, was nominated for the American Book Award.

sources:

Current Biography. H.W. Wilson, 1955.

Contemporary Authors. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1998.

suggested reading:

Chicago Tribune (obituary). March 20, 1983.

The Los Angeles Times (obituary). March 19, 1983.

The New York Times (obituary). March 20, 1983.

Washington Post (obituary). March 20, 1983.

Beth Champagne , journalist and freelance writer, West Barnet, Vermont

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