Marsaw leaves legacy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 23, 2010

NATCHEZ — Something about Levi Marsaw III could calm any tense situation, friends agree.

Whether it was life in Natchez during the civil rights movement or simply a church deacons’ meeting, Marsaw’s personality was exactly the right fit at the right time.

And it’s that calming presence, entrepreneurial spirit and leadership ability friends and family will remember at Marsaw’s funeral today. Marsaw was 81.

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“There are lots of so called unsung heroes out there, and he was one of those people,” former Natchez mayor Tony Byrne said.

Byrne became friends with Marsaw in the 1960s, before becoming mayor. A leader in the black community, Marsaw was happy to work with the white politician to move past riots, boycotts and violent times in Natchez, Byrne said.

“He was a steady influence in the community,” Byrne said. “And he knew some things out there that I wouldn’t have known about. He was always truthful to me and was one of the calming influences then.”

Friend and former pastor Elder Jerry Ramsey said Marsaw was able to respond reasonably and thoughtfully despite seeing friends across the state die in car explosions, lynching and more.

“He had a white friend in every county,” Ramsey said. “He wasn’t an angry man and he had no hostility toward a race.”

Marsaw worked at International Paper Company for 45 years and opened many local businesses including, the Savoy Grill, Hayes Café and Marsaw Café.

“He worked an awful lot,” Byrne said. “He was trying to make a decent living for his family.”

And church life was always at the center for Marsaw, Ramsey said.

“He was very active in church,” Ramsey said. “He was kind of the pillar of the church.”

For much of his adult life Marsaw attended Prayer Tower Church of God in Christ, and helped lead a building project that was recently completed.

He battled cancer for a short time and died Oct. 15.

He is survived by one daughter, Sharon Marsaw Herbert of New Orleans; one son, Gregory Marsaw and wife, Brenda, of Jacksonville, Fla., among others.

Services will be at noon at Prayer Tower.