Gen. George C. Marshall Meets His Valentine, Katherine Brown

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 2/14/2024

This Valentine’s Day, we remember the love between Gen. George C. Marshall and his second wife, Katherine Tupper Brown. They first met in the summer of 1929. Both were widowers who never intended to remarry.

Marshall, a colonel at Fort Benning, Georgia, (now Fort Moore), accepted an invitation to a dinner nearby Columbus. Brown came to the dinner reluctantly from Baltimore, Maryland, with her seventeen-year-old daughter Molly. Marshall was standing by the fireplace when Brown entered the house. “My first impression,” she later recalled, “was of a tall, slender man with sandy hair and deep-set eyes.” He immediately impressed her by refusing a cocktail. They spent the entire dinner bantering back and forth as Brown found herself attracted to the officer and his “way of looking right through you.”

When Brown’s daughter left the dinner early, Marshall offered to drive Brown home, assuring her he knew the location of the Blanchard residence where she stayed. She accepted his offer, and they spent the next hour driving around Columbus while chatting. Finally, Brown asked Marshall how long he had been stationed at Fort Benning. When he told her two years, she asked, “Well, after two years, haven’t you learned your way around Columbus?”

“Extremely well,” Marshall told her, “Or I could not have stayed off the block where Mrs. Blanchard lives.” He had been crisscrossing the town just to keep her company.

The next day, Marshall invited her to a reception on post and even sent a car for her. She found him dashing while he was charmed by her independent nature. Before she left the next day for Baltimore, they agreed to write.

Marshall eventually invited her back to Fort Benning and she agreed. Worried about how her children would feel about him, she invited him to her summer cottage on Fire Island, New York. He accepted and ended up spending five weeks with her family.

They wed in Baltimore on Oct. 15, 1930, with Gen. John J. Pershing (Section 34) standing with Marshall. Returning to Benning, Marshall and Brown rode horses together almost every afternoon. People around Marshall found that Brown had given him a spirit of generosity.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Marshall the Chief of Staff of the Army on Sept. 1, 1939, he moved his family to Fort Myer, where he and Brown would often paddle a canoe down the Potomac River or take walks in Arlington National Cemetery. Brown bought a manor house in Leesburg, Virginia., as a retreat from hectic Washington, D.C. She also worked hard throughout World War II to provide him respite from his global responsibilities.

They remained together until Marshall’s death on Oct. 16, 1959. When Katherine passed away in 1978, she joined her husband in the cemetery. Today, we remember those who have passed and are laid to rest with their loved one.