John Otho Marsh Jr.

John O. Marsh
14th United States Secretary of the Army
In office
January 30, 1981  August 14, 1989
President Ronald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Percy Pierre (Acting)
Succeeded by Michael P. W. Stone
Counselor to the President
In office
August 9, 1974  January 20, 1977
Serving with Robert Hartmann, Rogers Morton
President Gerald Ford
Preceded by Anne Armstrong
Dean Burch
Kenneth Rush
Succeeded by Edwin Meese (1981)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs
In office
April 17, 1973  February 15, 1974
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Rady A. Johnson
Succeeded by John M. Maury
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 7th district
In office
January 3, 1963  January 3, 1971
Preceded by Burr Harrison
Succeeded by Kenneth Robinson
Personal details
Born (1926-08-07) August 7, 1926
Winchester, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic (Before 1980s)
Republican (1980s–present)
Education Washington and Lee University (LLB)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1944–1947 (Active)
1947–1951 (Reserve)
1951–1976 (Guard)
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit United States Army Reserve
Army National Guard
Battles/wars Allied-occupied Germany
Vietnam War

John Otho Marsh Jr. (born August 7, 1926) is an American politician and an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University School of Law.[1][2][3] He served as the United States Secretary of the Army from 1981 to 1989, and as United States House of Representatives from Virginia from 1963 to 1971.[1][4]


Marsh was born in Winchester, Virginia, on August 7, 1926 and graduated from Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia.[5][6] He enlisted in the United States Army in 1944, during World War II, and was selected at age eighteen for Infantry Officer Candidate School (OCS) graduating as a second lieutenant of infantry in November 1945, then assigned to the Army of Occupation of Germany where he served from 1946 to 1947.[4][5][7] He was a member of the United States Army Reserve from 1947 to 1951.[5] He graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1951, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity.[1][5][8] He entered the Army National Guard in Virginia in 1951 and graduated from the Army's Airborne School in 1964. He later retired in 1976 in the rank of lieutenant colonel.[5]

Meanwhile, in 1952, he was admitted to the Virginia Bar, and started practicing law in Strasburg, Virginia, where he served as town judge.[5] From 1954 to 1962, he was the town attorney in New Market, Virginia.[5] He served in the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat from Virginia from 1963 to 1971.[1][2][3][4][5][6][9] He fought in the Vietnam War for a month without telling his fellow soldiers he was a Congressman.[4] In 1973, he was appointed as Assistant Secretary of Defense, and in January 1974, as National Security Advisor for then-Vice President Gerald Ford.[1][2][9] Under President Ford, he became Counselor to the President and held Cabinet rank.[1][2][4][6][9] From 1981 to 1989, he served as the United States Secretary of the Army under President Ronald Reagan.[1][2][3][4][6] Marsh was then selected to serve as Chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board, a position he held from 1989 until 1994.[10] He later served as Chairman and interim CEO of Novavax, Inc., a pharmaceutical company.[1][2] He still sits on its board of directors.[11] He was a confidant of Dick Cheney when he was Vice President.[9][12]

From 1998 to 1999, he was Visiting Professor of Ethics at the Virginia Military Institute, and Adjunct Professor of Law at The College of William & Mary from 1999 to 2000.[1] He now teaches a course on Technology, Terrorism and National Security Law at George Mason University.[1][13]

He is a former Co-Chair of the Independent Review Group for Walter Reed Hospital and Bethesda Navy Medical Center.[2][14] He is a member of the Markle Foundation.[3] The John O. Marsh Institute for Government and Public Policy at Shenandoah University is named for him.[15]

He lives in Winchester, Virginia with his wife, together they have had three children and seven grandchildren.[1]

Electoral history

  • 1962; Marsh was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives with 50.57% of the vote, defeating Republican James Kenneth Robinson.
  • 1964; Marsh was re-elected with 69.61% of the vote, defeating Republican Roy Erickson.
  • 1966; Marsh was re-elected with 59.25% of the vote, defeating Republican Edward O. McCue.
  • 1968; Marsh was re-elected with 54.43% of the vote, defeating Republican Arthur Rossa Giesen Jr. and Conservative Louis A. Brooks.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 George Mason Law biography Archived 2008-10-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Forbes profile
  3. 1 2 3 4 MARKLE
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Richard Halloran, 'Washington Talk - Working Profile: Army Secretary John O. Marsh Jr.; Military Leader Wins High Ground, Quietly', in The New York Times, January 03, 1989
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Bell, William Gardner (1992). "John Otho Marsh, Jr.". Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Army. United States Army Center of Military History. CMH Pub 70-12.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Congress biography
  7. Homeland Security Policy Institute. "Who We Are". Archived from the original on 17 July 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  8. Phi Kappa Psi (1991). Grand Catalogue of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity (13th ed.). Publishing Concepts, Inc. 1991. pp. 252, 585.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Dick Cheney, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, New York, NY: Threshold Editions, 2011, pp.71-72
  10. Annual Report of the Reserve Forces Policy Board for 2005 (PDF). Washington, DC: Department of Defense. 2006. p. 9.
  11. Novavax Board of Directors Archived 2011-12-14 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. Washington Post Archived 2011-12-23 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. George Mason course Archived 2011-05-26 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. 'Wounds, real and political', in The Washington Times, July 2, 2007
  15. John O. Marsh Institute
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Burr Harrison
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 7th congressional district

Succeeded by
Kenneth Robinson
Political offices
Preceded by
Rady A. Johnson
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs
Succeeded by
John M. Maury
Preceded by
Anne Armstrong
Counselor to the President
Served alongside: Robert T. Hartmann, Rogers Morton
Succeeded by
Ed Meese (1981)
Preceded by
Dean Burch
Preceded by
Kenneth Rush
Preceded by
Percy Pierre
United States Secretary of the Army
Succeeded by
Michael P. W. Stone
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