Herbert Marcus, merchant, was born September 6, 1878, in Louisville, Kentucky, to Jacob and Delia (Bloomfield) Marcus. He was educated in the Louisville public schools but left high school after a few months for financial reasons. When he was fifteen he followed his brother Theodore to Hillsboro, Texas, and worked as a janitor and clerk in a general store. He moved to Dallas about 1899 and began to sell life insurance. He next sold men's pants wholesale and then Buster Brown boys' clothes. As a salesman he became known at Sanger Brothers, which hired him to sell women's shoes. He was soon promoted to buyer for the boys' department. Later, Marcus left Sanger Brothers to join his brother-in-law, A. L. Neiman, in a sales promotion in Atlanta, Georgia. The success of this venture brought Marcus and Neiman two offers for their business, one of $25,000 in cash and the other of the Missouri or Kansas franchise for a new product, Coca-Cola. They chose the $25,000 and used the money to stake themselves in a specialty shop in Dallas.
In 1907, with his sister Carrie Marcus Neiman and her husband, Marcus organized and became president of Neiman Marcus Company, the first specialty store in the Southwest. The store offered ready-made, high-quality clothes for women, as well as exceptional service. In 1928 Marcus bought A. L. Neiman's interest. Marcus was also president and director of the Riverview Realty Company and the Theodore Marcus Realty Company and was a director of the Republic National Bank and Trust Company and the Dallas Joint Stock Land Bank. Aware that his store's future depended on the future of Dallas, Marcus gave much time and energy to the growth and development of the city. He was a founder, director, and treasurer of the Southwestern Medical Foundation (see UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER, DALLAS), a primary fund-raiser for the establishment of Southern Methodist University, a trustee of the Hockaday School, and a member of the executive committee of the Citizens Association. He chaired the Dallas Grand Opera Committee of the Chamber of Commerce (later superseded by the Dallas Grand Opera Association) and also served as a director of the Dallas Art Association (see DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART). He was president of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas and was one of the chief founders of the Southwestern division of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Marcus was also active on the Welfare Board of the City of Dallas. In addition to his urban concerns, he took an active interest in increasing sheep production in North and East Texas. He married Minnie Lichtenstein (see MARCUS, MINNIE L.) of Dallas on February 25, 1902; they had four sons, all of whom entered his business. Marcus was the majority stockholder in Neiman Marcus at his death. He died at his home of a heart attack after a stroke on December 11, 1950.