Howard Wight Marshall is Professor Emeritus and former chairman of Art History and Archaeology, and former director of the Missouri Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
After dropping out of college to join the Marine Corps in the early 1960s, Marshall took his BA in English at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and then took his MA and PhD in Folklore and Anthropology at Indiana University. He wrote his dissertation based on extensive field recording of traditional farm buildings in Missouri’s Little Dixie folk region.
Then after graduate school, Dr. Marshall worked briefly as director of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and then for several years as a curator and planner at a living history museum in Indiana, and consulted for the Smithsonian Institution. He then was called to a position at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. While in Washington, he taught a night course in architectural history at George Washington University.
Marshall left the Library of Congress after five years in 1981 to teach at Kansas State University. In 1982, he returned to Columbia to establish the Missouri Cultural Heritage Center in the Graduate School at the University of Missouri, and to teach material culture, vernacular architecture, and historic preservation in the Department of Art History and Archaeology. After the closing of the Cultural Heritage Center in 1993 (due to a campus budget crisis), Marshall served as professor and department chair in Art History and Archaeology, and took early retirement in 2000.
Dr. Marshall’s books include Buckaroos in Paradise: Cowboy Life in Paradise Valley, Nevada, Folk Architecture in Little Dixie: A Regional Culture in Missouri, Missouri Artist Jesse Howard, The German-American Experience in Missouri, Barns of Missouri: Storehouses of History, and Play Me Something Quick and Devilish: Old-Time Fiddlers in Missouri. Dr. Marshall’s latest book is Fiddler’s Dream: Old-Time, Swing, and Bluegrass Fiddling in Twentieth-Century Missouri, which continues the ethnography and discussion in Play Me Something Quick and Devilish.
Marshall plays the music he studies and writes about. He credits the memory of his grandfather, Wiley Marshall, a country schoolmaster and fiddler in Randolph County, with inspiring him to want to play the old dance tunes on the violin. Later, Marshall learned tunes and techniques from central Missouri fiddle legends such as Taylor McBaine, Jake Hockemeyer, Johnny Bruce, Nile Wilson, and Pete McMahan.
Dr. Marshall confesses that the best thing about his career was the good luck to meet his spouse, the charming and irrepressible Margot McMillen. Howard and Margot live in northern Callaway County, where they operate a small livestock farm.