William John Marsh, musician and teacher, the son of James and Mary Cecilia (McCormick) Marsh, was born on June 24, 1880, in Woolton, Liverpool, England. While still a teenager he was made organist and choirmaster at St. Mary's Church in Liverpool. He attended Ampleforth College in Yorkshire and studied harmony, composition, and organ. He moved to Fort Worth, Texas, in 1904 and worked in the cotton business. He became a naturalized United States citizen in 1917. Marsh was professor of organ, composition, and theory at Texas Christian University. He later held a similar teaching position at Our Lady of Victory Academy. He was also a longtime choir director at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Fort Worth and served as choir director at several other churches.
During his career as composer, teacher, and performer, Marsh published more than 100 works, mainly classical and sacred. He composed "O Night Divine," a Christmas song; The Flower Fair at Peking (1931), a one-act opera, reputedly the first opera to be composed and produced in Texas; the official Mass for the Texas Centennial, which was performed in Dallas with several thousand singers; and the state song, "Texas Our Texas" (1924), which John Philip Sousa once described as the finest state song he had ever heard. Marsh's song was the choice of the best state song by Gov. Pat Neff's committee in 1924, won a similar contest in 1925, a statewide contest in 1927, and was adopted as the state anthem in 1929. Marsh also composed numerous pageants, Masses, anthems, and cantatas.
In 1921–22 Marsh won first prize in San Antonio for the best song by a Texas composer. He won double first prizes in Dallas in 1929 for vocal and piano compositions and also won the Texas Federation of Music Clubs choral prize that year. Marsh was chairman of the Texas Composers' Guild for twenty-seven years and a music critic for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 1959 he received an award as Outstanding Senior Citizen of Fort Worth. Marsh held life memberships in the Texas and National Federation of Music Clubs, Texas Music Teachers Association, and American Guild of Organists. He was a Catholic. He died in Fort Worth on February 1, 1971, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery. In 1985 a Texas Historical Marker was erected in his honor near the gravesite.
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Daily Texan, February 2, 1971. Lota M. Spell, Music in Texas (Austin, 1936; rpt., New York: AMS, 1973). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who in America, 1946–47.
Music and Drama
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Marsh, William John,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 28, 2022,
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