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Charlene Jennings Marshall

Charlene Jennings Marshall served 14 years as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, representing Monongalia County, and seven years as the mayor of Morgantown.

Born in Osage, West Virginia, in 1933, she has lived her entire life in the Morgantown area. She is a graduate of Monongalia High School, the last all-Black high school in the county before West Virginia schools were desegregated, and attended Bluefield State College. Her father, and, later, her stepfather died in mining accidents. After her stepfather’s death, she left Bluefield State and returned to Morgantown to help support her family. She worked in local industry, for the state of West Virginia, and West Virginia University until her retirement in 1998. 

In 1991, concerned about conditions in her neighborhood – not far from the WVU campus – she ran for and won a seat on the Morgantown City Council. On her first night as a city council member she was elected mayor, making her the first Black female mayor in West Virginia. She and her fellow council members launched an energetic campaign to renew and revitalize the city and its neighborhoods, resulting in improvements like the Caperton Trail along the Monongahela River, which is used by thousands of citizens each year. Her seven terms as mayor set a new record in the 200-plus-year history of the city. No one had served more than five terms prior to her election. In 1994, she was selected as Mayor of the Year by the West Virginia Municipal League. During her final year as the Mayor, she was elected as a Democrat to the West Virginia House of Delegates. During seven terms in this office, she was an effective advocate for human rights and education, support for families, issues affecting the elderly, and working people. 

Beyond her official office, she has held board memberships or leadership positions with Valley Health Care, the American Red Cross, the Morgantown Theater Company, the Morgantown Boys and Girls Club, WVU’s Staff Council, the West Virginia Human Rights Commission, the Morgantown Chapter NAACP (as Past President), and is a Lifetime member of the NAACP. Her hard work and dedication have led her to be honored with the following awards: WVEA Effie Mayhan Brown Award, West Virginia Bar Outstanding Citizen Award, WVU Mountain State Bar Public Citizen, WVU Staff Council Advocacy Award, FBI Exceptional Service in the Public Interest Award, Dominion Excellence In Leadership: Strong, Men and Women Series, 2008, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, 1992, from the WVU Center for Black Culture and Research. 

She and her late husband, Rogers Leon Marshall Sr., are the parents of Gwendolyn, Rogers Jr., and Larry Marshall. West Virginia University presents Charlene Jennings Marshall with an honorary Doctor of Laws for attaining preeminence in government service and for providing distinguished and sustained leadership in her community.