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Leo Marsh papers

Identifier: Y.USA.3


Papers include correspondence, minutes, speeches, reports, articles, and other material related to Marsh's YMCA work, primarily in the area of race relations. The bulk of the records date from his years on the staff of the National Board and document his participation on several major YMCA board committees concerned with interracial work, including the Commission on Interracial Practices and Program and the Committee on Interracial Advance. The collection includes a great deal of material describing conditions for African Americans at various YMCAs around the country.


  • Creation: 1920-1979
  • Creation: Majority of material found in ( 1959-1969).


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


Leo Bergman Marsh was born in Camden, Alabama in 1903. He graduated from Knoxville College in 1928 and later did graduate work at the University of Chicago, Ohio State College, Columbia University, and George Williams College. While in college at Knoxville, he met and eventually married his wife Bessie. The couple and their two daughters, Frances and Gayle, settled in Montclair, New Jersey.

Marsh began his YMCA career in 1928 in Detroit, where he served as assistant youth work secretary, transferring to the same position in Chicago in 1929. From 1930 to 1945 he was the director of two branch YMCAs, first in Toledo, Ohio and then in Columbus, Ohio. In 1945 he became associate executive secretary of the Atlantic Area, a position which he held until 1948. Marsh joined the National Board as director of Interracial and Counseling Services in 1948. While with the Board, he was U.S. delegate to the 1952 World Conference of Christian Youth in India and a delegate to the 1945 World Council of YMCAs in Japan. In 1954 he had the distinction of becoming the first Black president of the Y's National Association of Secretaries (AOS).

In 1967 Marsh became assistant executive of the Board and executive of the Committee for Interracial Advance. He was one of the founders and the first general chairman of the National Conference of Black and Non-White Laymen and Staff (BAN-WYS). In 1969, After retiring from the National Board in 1970, he served for a year as associate development director of the New York City YMCA, where he was instrumental in establishing a successful Black Achievers in Industry program for the Harlem YMCA.

In addition to his work with the YMCA, Marsh was also active with a number of other organizations and agencies. He was chairman of the Task Force on Communications of the Urban Coalition in Montclair, N.J.; a member and former president of the New Jersey State Prison Board of Managers; a member of the National Council of United Negro College Fund, Inc.; a former vice-president of the Montclair Human Relations Council; and a former member of the Montclair Town Planning Board. His church work included membership on the boards of the National Presbyterian Church and the American Bible Society, as well as service as moderator of the Newark Presbytery and as a member of the Organizing Commission of the Northeast Synod of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. At the time of his death, he was a member of the development staff of the Presbyterian Homes of the State of New Jersey. Marsh was a charter member of the Mu Boule of the Sigma Phi Phi Fraternity, and was also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the Masons.

Biographical information was taken from the collection.


3.2 Cubic Feet (4 boxes)


Papers of Leo Bergman Marsh, YMCA National Board staff member and leader, documenting his career in the YMCA, which spanned the years from 1928 to 1976. The bulk of the papers concern his extensive work promoting improved race relations within the movement.


These documents are organized into the following sections:

  1. Personal Papers
  2. National Board Files


The following related materials are separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives:

Interracial Programs records, 1947-1980: Records describing the YMCA's work with the African American community and its work in interracial issues after 1946.

Biographical files: The YMCA Archives' series of biographical files include biographical sketches, newspaper clippings, and small collections of the personal papers of numerous leaders and individuals involved in the Black YMCA movement, including Leo Marsh.

Note on Language in the Collection and this Guide

Please note that some of the descriptive language found in this collection guide reflects and re-uses the words and ideas of the people and organizations that created the material. Historical records represent the opinions and actions of their creators and the society in which they were produced. This historical language was retained in cases where we believe it provides important context about the materials, is a Library of Congress Subject Heading, or is the official title of an item, organization, or event. As such, please be aware that this material and the guide describing it contains racial and other language and/or imagery that is outdated, offensive and/or harmful.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Lara D. Friedman~Shedlov, September 2003.

Catalog Record ID number: 4282490

Includes records previously cataloged separately as part of the Biographical Files.

An Inventory of His Papers
Finding aid prepared by Lara D. Friedman~Shedlov.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2021-11-29: Language was changed to reflect more current and respectful terminology and conventions, e.g. capitalization of the word "Black" in reference to people, and eliminating the use of the term "Black" as a noun referring to people. A content warning note was also added regarding language that was retained.

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area