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NEA salutes Virginia civil rights and education trailblazer

WASHINGTON - June 23, 2011 -

State Senator Henry L. Marsh, III will be honored by the National Education Association at its annual Human and Civil Rights Awards dinner  in Chicago,  July 1, 2011. Sen. Marsh will be awarded NEA’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Award.

 “It is quite fitting that Henry Marsh receive this award,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “As an attorney, as mayor of Richmond and as state senator, Henry Marsh has played an historic role in dismantling the legal and political system that was erected after Reconstruction. His entire career has focused on continuing the work of Dr. King and keeping Dr. King’s dream alive in Virginia.”

As a boy growing up in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, Marsh vividly remembers walking miles to attend a one-room schoolhouse. Every day a yellow school bus, full of White children, drove past him on the way to a modern school with classrooms for each grade and a teacher for each classroom.

After graduating from Howard Law School, Marsh joined the Richmond law firm of Hill, Tucker and Marsh, and immediately became involved in the legal struggle against the commonwealth of Virginia, which was defying Brown v. Board of Education. And over three decades, he successfully litigated more than 50 school desegregation cases in Virginia, including one against the Isle of Wight County schools. Marsh argued Brewer v. School Board of Norfolk that set the requirements for school desegregation across the state.

Marsh was elected Richmond’s first African-American mayor in 1977. He initiated major changes, including the adoption of a human rights ordinance and the appointment of African-Americans to various boards and commissions. In 1992, Marsh was elected to the Virginia State Senate, where he continues to serve. He is currently Chair of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. He also has been instrumental in the creation of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Living History and Public Policy Center in Richmond.

“Senator Marsh is a fierce advocate for public education in Virginia,” said Kitty J. Boitnott, President of the Virginia Education Association.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Dana Dossett  (202) 822-7823,