By Kevin McKinley
Guest Writer 

The sun has set on JC Marshall


May 23, 2019

Courtesy Photo


One of the truly great men I have had the opportunity to have known in my life was a man by the name of J.C. Marshall. He wasn't a politician, an astronaut, a general, or a man of great material wealth but he was a great man because his wealth lay in his family and his hard work.

He was a memorable character not only in Canoe but in the surrounding area. When many men would sink into despair over loss or financial woes, JC always had a smile and an infectious laugh that ensured no room was going to be quite for long.

Canoe, Alabama is fortunate to have had several notable residents of such renown. Unfortunately, over the years the list has begun to be whittled down by the passing of time. It's important to remember such friends and neighbors so that future generations know something of who came before them and what they were like. J.C. was one worthy of remembering.

JC was born to Stonewall Jackson Marshall (he was my mother's uncle-she just called him Uncle Jack) and Burline Driskell Marshall. Burline was the sister of Allen Driskell and was related to many of the Driskells at McCullough, Alabama.

Rayford, John Henry, Erskin, William Alma Lee, Maisy and JC were all born to Jack and Burline Marshall.

I interviewed JC in 2015 and he had the following to say about his father, "He was a hard worker, and he loved his family," JC said when asked about his father. "He loved us and he expected us to act right," continued JC. Acting right often meant taking his punishment when he got off the straight and narrow.

"I remember when I was at Canoe's grammar school. Joe Searcy and I got in a fight in the pump house of the old school. Mrs. McMurphy came along and asked what it was all about. She sent me out back to the pond and told me to get four switches. She switched me good. I was mad that she didn't switch Searcy so I went home (he only lived a few blocks from the school). My daddy got home at lunch that day and found me home. He switched me again and sent me back to school, and upon arriving, Mrs. McMurphy switched me again for leaving school. I got three switchings over that fight, I never did that again," said JC.

Another memory JC shared related to some misappropriated peanuts, "I remember some local boys and me took some peanuts from Corry Hall's peanut patch. We were going to boil them down by Canoe Creek the next day. Mr. Hall seen us and told my dad about it. He didn't expect or ask for payment for the peanuts but my daddy gave him $2; and took $9 out of my rear end for being involved in the foolishness," JC remembered.

Their home in Canoe was a simple one. "We rented a house from Emma Leatherwood, a school teacher in Canoe. The house had big cracks in the walls and the floor. We'd build fires in the fireplace to smoke out the mosquitos and sometimes you would see a wood rat the size of a small cat running through the rafters," said JC.

Even though it was a time of great poverty for many people of the area it was a golden age in a way in that kids could roam the small town safely and family meant something. "People cared about each other." JC noted.

"My Uncle, Allen Driskell, would grow a big garden of butter beans and give us all we wanted. My daddy was the same way. He'd butcher his hogs and invite the entire family over to slaughter the hogs and cook the meat," he added.

JC joined the National Guard during the buildup for the Korean War. After coming back from the US Army, JC went back to school in Atmore. He quit in the 11th grade and ran off for the oil patch in Louisiana and Texas.

"I told my daddy I could starve in Texas as good as I could starve here, and I left Canoe hitchhiking to Louisiana," Stated JC in 2015.

"I slept along the way, sometimes in a ditch, sometimes in a car." JC said. "I made it there fairly quick. I was broke. I had a dime in my pocket. I went into a café in Houma and bought a pack of crackers and some lemonade. A woman asked me if that was all the money I had. She told me to spend the night and they'd find me a job in the morning." Said JC about the event.

"I first got a job in a gas station in Houma," JC noted. "But then in a short time I found a job as a rough neck in the oil fields around the area." He added.

After a short time, JC left Houma, and hitch-hiked to Odessa, Texas and worked 9 years in the oil fields there. He also worked in New Mexico.

Oil companies worked the men hard and often their jobs would play out with very short notice. In Hobbs, New Mexico, it was near the Christmas season of 1959 or 60 when word came down the drilling company was going to lay off the men just days before Christmas in that the drilling was nearly over.

"No one knew what to do about all of us losing our jobs this close to Christmas," JC said.

"But somebody threw a big wrench down the well shaft, which meant we couldn't drill anymore until the wrench was found-it took 30 days of fishing in the well to find that wrench," recalled JC.

Following his years in the oil field, JC went over the road as a trucker.

It was the golden age of trucking, an age before layers of government taxes and red tape, during a time when a man could purchase a rig and still make money.

"I was driving through Kansas City, Missouri when I met Lethea-my wife. It was love at first sight." Said JC about the chance meeting.

After their marriage, JC and Letha Marshall settled in South Alabama. JC had worked for Graham Oil for 8 years and Shell Oil four years. The couple had three children, Pam, Candy and Jimmy and several grandchildren.

Following his return to Alabama, JC eventually went to work for Stuckey Oil in Century, Florida. "I worked for Tommy Stuckey for 20 years; from the around 1976 until 1996 when I retired," stated JC.

JC shared many fond memories of working for Mr. Stuckey and driving a fuel delivery truck.

"Tommy Stuckey was the best boss I ever had," says JC. "I never heard him curse in over 20 years of working for him and he always took care of his people," added JC.

After retiring from Stuckey Oil in March of 1996, JC went on to deliver newspapers, own and operate a semi-truck with Genie Truck Lines from Mount Holly, Pennsylvania, run his own restaurant and worked at the PCI Truck Stop at the Poarch Exit off I-65. He even built his home, with his own hands, in 1996.

When asked about the things that have kept him going over the years, JC mentioned that family is always a driving force but hard work and a good attitude is also a secret to a long, happy life.

"I worked my whole life, I've never drawn unemployment or welfare," he stated in 2015.

"Welfare is a free give away from the government-but it ain't really free-one day it's all going to stop, the best a person can do is a get a job and work hard for what they have," JC stated.

When JC Marshall passed away on May 13, 2019, he left this Earth in a home he built with his own hands, surrounded by family and those he loved. We should all hope to be so lucky when our time comes.

Every community has its certain neighbors and residents whose wit and wisdom can often be found sitting around the table at the local service station and who leave a positive impression on all they meet. The life and times of JC Marshall is an example of a hard-working Southerner who always had a joke and smile for anyone he came across.


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