Harry Dean Marsh, former chair of the Department of Journalism at the University of Arkansas and the emcee for the first Northwest Arkansas Gridiron show in 1978, died April 4, 2021, at the family home in Gallatin, Tennessee. He was 93.
Marsh was born in Feb. 28, 1928, to Samuel Ferguson Marsh and Flora Susana Marti Marsh in the adobe parsonage of the Marfa Baptist Church and baptized by his father in Comanche Springs, Fort Stockton. He spent his childhood in the Big Bend desert of West Texas.
He earned degrees from Baylor University, Columbia University and the University of Texas at Austin. He served as a U.S. Army Signal Corps technician in West Germany during the Korean War.
Marsh pursued a career in journalism that spanned 50 years. He reported, photographed and edited on newspaper staffs for 17 years, first on two small Texas papers, the Hillsboro Mirror and the Andrews County News, then on The Delta Democrat-Times at Greenville, Mississippi, and the Birmingham News, and finally on two New York City papers, the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Daily News.
For the remainder of his career he taught journalism at three universities — Baylor University, the University of Arkansas and Kansas State University, heading the departments at the latter two. At the University of Arkansas, he ushered in the electronic age of journalism, working with donors Charles and Maudine Sanders to outfit the department with a computer system, keyboards and typesetting machines. He was chair from 1974 to 1980.
While meeting with the Ozarks Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in fall of 1977, Marsh asked whether the chapter shouldn’t put on a gridiron as a fundraiser. By March, the show was booked for one night at the Rodeo of the Ozarks Community Center and has continued as a tradition with intermittent hiatuses for war and pandemic. He served as emcee for the first show while also acting in a couple of sketches, and he returned to acting in 1980.
He published books, monographs and articles in the field of mass communication. Immediately after retirement he taught part time at the University of North Carolina in Asheville.
Marsh said that the best thing he ever did was marry Ellie Bruton of Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Their two children and spouses are William and Jennifer Marsh of Leesburg, Virginia, and Marti and Jason Kastner of Gallatin. They have four grandchildren; Isabelle, Daniel, Ellie and Josie.
Marsh volunteered at Sumner Regional Medical Center for ten years. He has been active in the Sumner County Democratic Party, serving as an assistant chairman, and he has been a trustee of First Presbyterian Church. He described the church as a loving fellowship supporting his faith and hope. As a continuation of his journalistic activity he has submitted and had published about 50 letters to the editor in recent years.
A Graveside Service with military honors was held April 19, 2021, at the Nashville National Cemetery in Madison, Tennessee.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to First Presbyterian Church Gallatin, Sumner County Food Bank or High Point Hospice.