A legislator affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence will end. Marshall Burns Williams was first elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1947 and served until 1952, the year in which he was elected to the South Carolina Senate. He served in the Senate from 1953 until his death in December 1995 — a total of forty-eight years. His record of continuous service, if not the longest, is one of the longest in the state’s history.
In those forty-eight years the state was beset by turmoil and confusion. Marshall’s calm manner, open mind and common sense helped the state through that troubled time. It was, also, a time when reform and progress brought about remarkable economic, cultural and social progress which led to South Carolina’s present state of prosperity. Marshall played an important part in making that progress possible.
He was born in 1912 in Norway in Orangeburg County, the county with which he was always identified in his legislative career. His parents were C. H. and Maude Metts Williams. He was graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor of science degree in 1933 and from the Law School in 1936. He always listed himself in the legislative manuals as a “lawyer and farmer”. He entered upon both of those professions with characteristic determination and enthusiasm. In June, 1942, Marshall was married to Margaret Shecut of Orangeburg, and in August of that year he entered into the United States Naval service where he served until January, 1946. Marshall left the military with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. They have four children, Burns, Ann, Mary Ashley and Charles. Charles continues the practice of law which his father established and his wife, Karen, is a Judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
While in the State Senate, Marshall Burns encountered powerful members of the legislature — in their more amiable moods they were prima donnas — in their most intimidating aspect, they resembled war lords. Marshall Burns never assumed either pose. He was consistently courteous, understanding and willing to stand firm for what he believed to be right.
South Carolina has been blessed with leadership of the highest quality in its legislature. We can proudly point to the life and work of Marshall Williams as a bright star in that history, confident that his service will, indeed, influence eternity.