Marshall, car dealer who won reputation for good service

By: samjack

Lawrence Marshall, who transformed a rural automobile dealership into one of the most successful such operations in the Houston area, has died. He was 84.

Beginning in the 1950s as a small-town operation in Hempstead, Marshall’s dealerships won a reputation for reasonable prices and customer satisfaction, said his son, Ricky Marshall.

“It’s a rags-to-riches story. For my dad, it wasn’t just low prices,” he said. “It was hands-on service, and during the 1970s and 1980s he sold lots of the vehicles himself. When they asked to see Lawrence, the customers usually got to see Lawrence.”

Marshall won such sales awards as the Chevrolet Century Club and Oldsmobile’s Vanguard Elites. For excellence in customer service, he won the Chevrolet Service Supremacy Medallion.

Started career as mechanicLawrence Connie Marshall was born on June 3, 1924, in Houston, the son of Louis Connie Marshall, a carpenter, and Lillie Bertha Frey Marshall. He graduated from Reagan High School.

Turned down for military service in World War II because of asthma, Marshall began his career as a mechanic and crew chief at auto races in the Houston area.

After operating a used car dealership on Washington Avenue with Houston businessman Charles Allred, Marshall in the 1950s bought a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealership in Hempstead. He later acquired Ford-Mercury and Dodge-Chrysler-Plymouth dealerships in Hempstead, Cadillac-Oldsmobile and Pontiac-Buick dealerships in Bryan and a Chevrolet dealership in Giddings.

In 1999, former Houston Oilers defensive lineman Ray Childress bought five of the dealerships. In 2001, a group in Austin acquired the Giddings dealership.

Lawrence Marshall also operated the Lawrence Marshall Antique Cars Museum and developed the Legendary Oaks subdivision and golf course in Hempstead.

He was a former president of the Waller County Fair Association. Marshall owned an exotic game ranch, Carta Valley Wildlife, between Rocksprings and Del Rio.

“He loved that place. It was a spiritual release for him,” Ricky Marshall said.

“I wouldn’t swap my dad for any daddy on earth. He didn’t drink or smoke, was a one-wife man, a churchgoer,” his son said. “His philosophy was God, family and business, in that order.”

Defeated prostate cancerDiagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996, Lawrence Marshall was given a few years to live but defeated the disease. He died in his Hempstead home on June 15 of a series of strokes, his son said.

Lawrence Marshall was predeceased by his parents and a sister, Grace Stern, and a brother, Vernie Marshall.

In addition to his son Ricky Marshall of Navasota, survivors include his wife of 64 years, Mavanelle Clendennen “Nell” Marshall of Hempstead; and another son, Monte Marshall of Bellville.

Services were held Thursday at the Church of Christ, 100 FM 359, in Hempstead. Burial was in Woodlawn Cemetery in Houston under direction of McWilliams Funeral Home in Hempstead.

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