he story of Louise Foucar Marshall is remarkable in every sense of the word. Born in 1864, the daughter of a Boston family that had emigrated from Germany, she had the advantage of a quality education and the broad perspective of someone who had traveled widely and lived in other countries. At the same time, her personality was formal and reserved like many of her social peers growing up in the Victorian era of the late 1800’s.
In her business career, Louise proved to be a savvy real estate investor, but her first love was teaching and her dream was to find a way to help young women attend the University of Arizona. She saw this as a way not only to assist students further their educations, but also to create a positive impact on their families and the larger community as well. Even as a young woman, Louise Henriette Foucar (maiden name) was already thinking in larger terms. She wanted to have a positive impact beyond herself and into the community by helping students and those less fortunate.
After her father discovered the formula for patent leather, Louise was able to study in France, Italy and Switzerland. Her health was not good and she searched for a place with a better climate to live, moving first to El Paso, Texas and then to Mexico City. In 1890, she moved to Denver, Colorado and earned two degrees at the University of Denver, one in modern languages. While in Denver, she developed tuberculosis and heart problems and moved again in 1898, this time to the warmer climate and lower elevation of Tucson.
At the time, the University was still very small, with fewer than 150 students and less than 20 members of the faculty. The campus was mostly open desert with very few buildings. It was located in a rural area, far from the center of Tucson. The bustling frontier town had grown to a population of about 10,000, and boasted a lively commercial district with dry goods stores and rough-and-tumble saloons catering to railroad men, miners and ranchers.
Marriage and New Foundation
It was a happy time for the newlyweds and a busy time for Louise as she focused all her energy and skill on expanding her holdings and managing the various properties. In 1922, she developed a block of businesses across from the University’s main entrance at Park and Third Street, now known as University Boulevard. The Park Avenue Shops were Tucson’s first suburban shopping center and became an instant success, attracting new customers to the area for the first time.
Louise continued to develop properties and used the growing revenue to create the private, not-for-profit corporation known as Marshall Charitable Foundation in 1930. As a non-profit, it was (and still is) required to donate five percent of its net worth yearly and serve the needs of organizations based in Pima County. 1930 was a banner year for Louise because her dream to create a permanent scholarship fund to help students attend the University had finally become a reality.
A Tragic Episode
Thomas Marshall died three weeks later at a Los Angeles hospital and Louise was charged with first-degree murder. She said at the time that her intention was only to warn her husband, after suspecting him and their ex-housekeeper of having an affair and conspiring to kill her with arsenic. The doctors eventually ruled that the cause of death was an infection that set in after a botched operation to remove one of the bullets, and not the shooting itself.
Because Louise was such a prominent Tucson citizen, the trial was moved to Nogales. And it became a media sensation, attracting newspaper coverage and bold headlines around the country. People in Tucson were shocked by the crime. After all, it had been committed by one of the city’s most prominent citizens. At the same time, there was a good deal of sympathy from those familiar with the reckless side of Thomas Marshall’s personality.
On the advice of her lawyers, Louise pleaded guilty by reason of temporary insanity. It was one the very first legal cases to include this novel defense. She claimed she shot her husband because of fear that she was being poisoned. The jury was persuaded by her emotional testimony and acquitted her on the first-degree murder charge after deliberating only half an hour.
Lifetime of Achievement
After her acquittal, Louise rededicated herself to managing her extensive real estate holdings and promoting the work of the new Marshall Charitable Foundation. She took over day-to-day operations and began working in concert with a newly-appointed board of directors. Her participation in foundation activities continued until her death in 1956 at the age of 92. When she died, the assets in her personal estate totaled less than $5,000, but the holdings of Marshall Foundation were worth more than $900,000, a very large sum by any measure for the time.
(Acknowledgement: The descriptions, quotes and historical information contained in this section and the sections that follow were compiled from sources including the book Tom Marshall’s Tucson by Patricia Stephenson and Alex Jay Kimmelman, research done by the foundation staff, and articles, documents and publications from the foundation archives. Photos and newspaper clippings courtesy of Tom Marshall’s Tucson , the Arizona Daily Star and the foundation archives.)