Formby, Marshall Clinton, Jr. (1911–1984)

By: William M. Pearce

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: October 3, 2019

Marshall Clinton Formby, Jr., public official and writer, was born on April 12, 1911, near Como, Hopkins County, Texas, the son of Marshall Clinton and Rosa Mae Formby. When he was five years old his family moved to McAdoo in Dickens County. There he attended public school through the junior year in high school. He obtained his diploma at Spur High School in 1928 and he enrolled in Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University), where he received the bachelor of arts degree in 1932. He received his master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas in 1937.

His long career in public service began in 1936, when he was elected county judge of Dickens County, a position he held until 1940. He was elected to the Texas Senate and represented District Thirty (Lubbock) for a four-year term, although service in the United States Army (1942–46) precluded constant participation in Austin matters during World War II. On September 8, 1946, he married Sharleen Wells in Seale, Alabama. They had two children.

In 1948 Formby moved to Plainview, where he sold the Plainview Tribune, a weekly newspaper that he had purchased in 1941, and began to devote his time to the operation of a number of West Texas radio stations. His nephew, Clint Formby, served as manager and partner. After a year of study at the Baylor University School of Law, Formby was admitted to the state bar on December 4, 1952. He returned to Plainview, where, in 1953, he joined the law firm of a long-time friend, Judge Harold LaFont. In 1953 Governor Allan Shivers appointed him to the Texas Highway Commission, and he served as chairman of that body during the last two years (1957–59) of his tenure. The period of his membership on the commission was marked by an acceleration in the farm-to-market paved road program and by the construction of the Texas Turnpike, the tollway between Dallas and Fort Worth.

In 1962 Formby made an unsuccessful bid to be the Democratic nominee for governor of Texas. That same year saw the publication of his historical novel, These Are My People. He pursued his favorite hobby, travel, with vigor. In 1955 he visited Russia with a group of newspaper and radio editors. In 1960 he traveled to South and Central America and in 1968 took his family around the world. He went to China in 1979. Formby was named to the board of directors of Texas Tech University in 1967; he served in that capacity until 1971 when he was appointed to the Coordinating Board, Texas College and University System, (now the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board), a position he held for two six-year terms.

After a lengthy illness, probably from uremic poisoning, Formby died on December 27, 1984, at his home in Plainview. His funeral was held at the First Baptist Church there, and he was buried at McAdoo.

Austin American-Statesman, December 28, 1984. Dickens County Historical Commission, Dickens County: Its Land and Its People (Lubbock: Craftsman Printers, 1986). Vera D. Wofford, ed., Hale County Facts and Folklore (Lubbock, 1978).

  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Fiction

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

William M. Pearce, “Formby, Marshall Clinton, Jr.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995
October 3, 2019