A Life in Politics and Law | An Interview with Marshall Cain

by Anna Dangerfield

The opportunities to observe the legislative process on both a state and national level, coupled with the support of his family and friends, have provided Marshall Cain with a rich and fulfilling life.

Back to Aiken

Marshall is a descendant of two old Aiken families, the Summeralls and the Holleys. In 1935, he and his mother, Helen Holley Cain, returned to her hometown of Aiken to live with her mother, Kate Summerall.

“After my parents separated, then divorced, my mother and I moved back from Virginia when I was one year old. We moved into my grandmother’s home on the corner of Abbeville Avenue and Laurens Street, a yellow house where I grew up,” Marshall said.

Small Town Aiken

“Aiken had a small town feel back then,” Marshall said. “It was a carefree time to grow up with little concern about crime. Everybody in Aiken knew each other. There were many downtown stores like Holley Hardware and Powell Hardware. I remember Mr. Hahn who ran his old-fashioned grocery store. He catered to the wealthy, carrying fine meats and vegetables, with sawdust always covering the floor.”

Teen Years

Marshall remembers watching movies at the downtown Rosemary and Patricia Theaters and at the Fox Drive-In on the Southside. “Sometimes, we’d travel to Augusta to see a movie,” he said. Swimming was enjoyed by hitchhiking to Scott’s Lake as well as jumping into the cold water at the city pool on Newberry Street.

He said that Laurens Street on the west side from Hampton Avenue to Richland Avenue was dirt, while the east side was paved. “The city’s watering trucks drove down numerous dirt roads spraying to wet the dirt,” he said.

Marshall attended Aiken Elementary and then Aiken High School for grades 7-12. Football practice and games took place on the Eustis Park field. “It was all clay, so when we fell, it felt like hitting concrete,” he said.

In addition to playing football, Marshall served as the president of the student body. He was close to teachers known to generations of Aiken students, including John Eubanks, Margaret Bobo, Mary Lou Barlow, and Principal J. O. Willis. In 1952, he graduated from Aiken High School (the current site of Trinity Lutheran) in 1952, with approximately 63 fellow seniors. After graduation from the University of South Carolina and the USC School of Law, Marshall was ready to practice law.

Woe is Us!

He accepted U. S. Senator Strom Thurmond’s offer to work as his legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., Marshall’s first real job after law school.


In 1982, Senator and Mrs. Strom Thurmond hosted a luncheon in the Senate Dining Room to welcome Anne and Marshall to Washington. First row, seated left to right, Congressman Floyd Spence, Congressman Butler Derrick, Anne Cain, Nancy Thurmond, Mrs. Fritz Hollings, Congressman Tommy Hartnett, Mrs. Carroll Campbell, Beverly Sills. Second row, standing left to right, Congressman John Napier, Marshall Cain, Unidentified, Senator Strom Thurmond, Senator Fritz Hollings, Ambassador and Mrs. Richard Walker, Newsman Lee Bandy, and Congressman Carroll Campbell.

”Strom liked to work,” Marshall said. “He was conscientious, focused, and detail- oriented. He was in perfect physical condition because he watched his diet, played tennis, jogged, and didn’t drink or smoke. His wife at the time, Jean, took a lot of interest in his work. When she died, the staff said, ‘Woe is us!’ Now Strom had no home life, so we all began working later at the office.

“My job was to be on the Senate floor. One evening, the Senate was in session until 5:30 a.m. When I exited at that early hour and ran into Strom, I expected him to say that he’d see me later that afternoon or the next day. Instead he said, ‘I guess I’ll see you in three hours,’ “ Marshall said.

Marshall returned to Aiken after a year and a half and married his wife Anne in 1961 whom he had met while working in D.C. “We lived in a garage apartment behind Dr. F. A. Kennedy’s house on Richland Avenue. Dr. Kennedy was a staunch Democrat, and if he had known that I had any interest In the Republican party, he would not have rented to me,” Marshall said and laughed.

The Political Bug Bites

In 1968, Marshall understood that the Democrats and Republicans in the South shared the same political philosophy. “I ran for the South Carolina House as a Republican, while I was working at the Lybrand, Simons and Rich law firm. At that time, Dorcey Lybrand was a former Democratic senator, Charlie Simons was a Democratic house member, and Arthur Rich was a Democratic precinct captain,” he said.

Marshall was the only Republican elected to serve along with three Democrats in the countywide race. He served for six years and was elected as the Republican leader in 1970, then was re-elected in 1972. After reapportionment, he was in the same district as Irene Rudnick, who won the seat in 1974. When he decided to run for the House again, he ran against Irene, won and stayed from 1978-1980.

Aiken County Legislative Delegation

Marshall is proud of the many accomplishments he and the Aiken County legislative delegation completed when he was in office. “We successfully handled many controversial issues,” he said.

The delegation authorized a new hospital to be built in Aiken, owned and operated by the Hospital Corporation of America. The topic was controversial when discussions began, one of the reasons being citizen loyalty to the old hospital on Richland Avenue. “It was a plus for Aiken to attract a nationally known hospital such as Hospital Corporation of America. This decision also helped to attract new physicians,” Marshall said.


L–R: Stuart, Marshall Jr., Anne, Marshall, Julie and David Cain

They also authorized the purchase of land for USCA. “The governor’s new head of technical education wanted to combine the technical colleges and the university branches to make community colleges. The delegation wanted the two to remain separate. The governor relented, and we authorized the purchase of the land for USCA from the Graniteville Company,” he said.

They created the Aiken County Council, purchased land to build a new court house, and authorized punch card ballots. “There was never a hanging chad, and the returns were counted quicker,” Marshall said.

Executive Assistant

In 1974, Marshall served as Governor James B. Edwards’ executive assistant. He was in charge of Edwards’ relationship with the S.C. General Assembly, chaired his committee on criminal justice, acted as his liaison to law enforcement agencies, and oversaw appointments to boards and commissions.

“I felt this was a big job, and worked Tuesday through Thursday, while still working at the firm on Mondays and Fridays,” Marshall explained. “After two years, I had to resign. I could not be in both places.”

About Five Minutes

“I worked in the firm for 20 years and practiced all types of law. While we avoided criminal and domestic law, because there were no public defenders at that time, we did have to try some of those cases,” he said.

One case remains humorous.

“In a clear case of self-defense, a woman shot and killed her abusive husband in their driveway,” Marshall said. “I interviewed the mother who lived with them and asked how long it took her daughter to go inside the house and return to the porch with the shotgun she used to shoot her drunk husband. The mother replied that it took her daughter about five minutes to return to the porch with the shotgun. I had to try to disprove premeditation, and five minutes showed that the daughter had time to think about her decision.

“In front of the jury I asked the mother, ‘Do you know how long five minutes is?’ She replied, ‘No.’ ‘Do you own a watch?’ ‘No.’ ‘Have you ever owned a watch?’ ‘No.’ I then walked to the back of the courtroom and back to the witness stand, a 30-second trek. ‘Do you know how long it took me to walk to the back of this courtroom and back to you?’ I asked. She replied, ‘About five minutes.’ I looked at the jury and said, ‘Thank you!’ “

New Year’s Day

On New Year’s Day 1981, Senator Thurmond called to wish the Cains a Happy New Year. Ronald Reagan had just been elected president and Marshall voiced his desire to work with this new administration.

“I’d like to be in a policy-making position,” he said. When the Justice Department called, Marshall flew to Washington where he was interviewed by Ken Starr, later the independent investigator of President Bill Clinton. He recommended Marshall’s appointment as deputy assistant attorney general to the Deputy of Legislative Affairs. After serving in this capacity, Marshall later joined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the assistant general counsel in charge of Legislative Litigation and Regional Operations where he remained until retiring in 1996.

Anne’s View

“Our family’s exposure to national politics and visits to the numerous historic sites in the D.C. area, along with the opportunity to work in Senator Thurmond’s office, were wonderful benefits for us,” Anne said.

She met many interesting people during their time in the area. She remembered the tea hosted by Nancy Thurmond honoring Sandra Day O’Connor on her confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, the National Prayer Breakfast attended by President and Mrs. Reagan, and other parties hosted throughout their time in Washington.

Anne also found time to pursue her own interests. “I taught conversational English and American literature to a group of international women. This was through our church. Our association and friendships with so many different nationalities and learning about their cultures were very special,” she said.

An Important Job

Over the years, Marshall has received many honors for his community involvement and citations from the myriad boards and organizations with which he worked. He was named Aiken’s Outstanding Young Man of the Year in 1967 by the Aiken Jaycees, served as the former chairman of the Aiken Planning and Zoning Commission, and was a trustee and president of the Friends of Hopelands and Rye Patch. He continues to participate in the Rotary Club of Aiken, the club that once gave him a very important job.

“When I retired, some Rotary members questioned how I wanted to be involved,” Marshall said. “I informed them that I had been the EPA counsel, and they responded they had the perfect job. The joke was on me. My ‘job’ was to pick up garbage on Highway 1! I told them that was not exactly what I had in mind, but of course I did it!”

First Baptist Church

Marshall has been a member of Aiken’s First Baptist Church since childhood. He led the Bicentennial Committee, served as a deacon and as the superintendent of the Sunday school, and worked in many other capacities as well.


The Cains at Pawleys Island

“We enjoy a very active Sunday school class where we breakfast on occasion, play in golf tournaments and enjoy cookouts together,” Marshall said.

Dr. Fred Andrea, Pastor of Aiken’s First Baptist Church, noted that Marshall has long been one of the pillars of the church. “He is an exemplary servant leader, always encouraging others, looking for practical ways to help folks in need, and sharing generously of his time, talent, and treasure,” Dr. Andrea said.

“As one who practices his faith, Marshall models gracious kindness, simple respect, good humor, and a civil spirit. He is a devoted husband, loving father, doting grandfather, and caring friend. He is one of our city’s extraordinary characters who gives Aiken its unique character,” he said.

The Future

“Aiken is an unusual South Carolina town,” Marshall said. “We are one of the few with a vibrant downtown. We need to continue to improve it, attract new businesses, and move forward to keep that vibrancy.”

What are his desires for South Carolina? “We need to continue to attract industries like Michelin and Boeing that offer good wages and increase the level of living.”

Who does he hope to see as the next U.S. president? “Jeb Bush. He’s a good man with an outstanding record as the governor of Florida. He is articulate, knowledgeable, and will appeal to both conservatives and moderates. The Republicans need to be successful,” he said.

A Full Life

Marshall is proud of his family. “Our daughter Julie is a schoolteacher in West Columbia, Marshall Jr. is a financial advisor in Lexington, David is a mortgage broker in Columbia, and Stuart is an architect in Falls Church, Virginia,” he said.

“I’ve had a full and rich life,” he said. “I have been blessed to have a wonderful mate of 53 years, four wonderful, happily married children who are strong Christians, and seven grandchildren with one on the way. We continue to enjoy our annual beach week at Pawleys Island, and we continue to enjoy our life in Aiken.”


Anna Dangerfield

Anna Dangerfield lives in Aiken and is the proud grandmother of three grandsons. She enjoys spending time at her family beach home on the South Carolina coast and traveling with her husband Tim. She also enjoys researching and writing about Aiken history.