The arrival of a new minister in town used to be front page news in Statesville. The following appeared in the Landmark on Aug. 10, 1950, “Rev. Robert J. Marshburn, the new pastor of the First Associate Reformed Presbyterian church of Statesville, arrived here Wednesday evening with Mrs. Marshburn and their year-old daughter (Margaret). Their furniture is arriving today and they are moving into the manse on Davie Avenue.” The happy young couple and their infant daughter moved into the First ARP parsonage at 510 Davie Avenue that had been purchased by the church in 1946.
While living here in Statesville over the next 19 years Rev. Marshburn and Gladys had more children. Barbara Jordan was born in 1951, Daniel Grier, 1953, Paul Bartow, 1954, Ruth Bloodworth, 1956, Robert Pressley, 1958, and Thomas Henry Marshburn, Aug. 29, 1960. The family relocated back to Georgia where Dr. Marshburn took over as minster of another church in late 1969. Son Thomas H. Marshburn went on to become one of Statesville’s most illustrious natives. Now an astronaut with NASA, he returned from his first space mission on STS-127 in July after making three space walks. This Sunday, October 4, at 4 p.m., Dr. Marshburn will be at the Iredell County Public Library for a special visit during which he will present to the city a Statesville lapel pin that he carried into space. The pin will be mounted and framed and hung in the Local History Department at the library.
Tom’s father took over a church rich with history when he arrived. The First ARP Church began on August 7, 1869 when a group of eleven members from New Sterling and New Perth met in the old Walker House, later known as the St. Charles Hotel, to elect four elders for the start of a new Presbyterian Church. Services were first held in the courthouse until 1874 when construction began on a little square church building on land donated by Col. J.S. Miller. This original ARP church was later completely destroyed by a cyclone in June, 1899. First ARP then held services in the Temple Emanuel synagogue for a year until a new Church could be completed in 1900 on the original location on East Broad St. The new Church was of dark red brick and had a square tower three stores high with steep steps leading up to its wooden doors.
Rev. Robert J. Marshburn, Jr. was only the fifth minister in First ARPs first 100-year history. The church building erected in 1900 after the cyclone was torn down beginning in October, 1956 and a new larger church built in its place. Services were held in the Playhouse Theatre until the new one was completed. The new church was dedicated under Rev. Marshburn’s direction on March 16, 1958 at 123 East Broad St. Rev. Marshburn returned to Georgia to take over the Doraville ARP Church in 1969. He passed away in Atlanta, Ga., on Dec. 6, 1988.
Astronaut Dr. Tom Marshburn joined NASA in 1994, serving as a flight surgeon at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He was selected in May, 2004 to be a NASA astronaut, completing his training in Feb. 2006. His first flight into space lifted off on June 15, 2009 at 6:03 p.m. and returned on July 31 after visiting the International Space Station. Dr. Marshburn has private, instrument, aerobatic and commercial pilot’s licenses. On the NASA website Marshburn spoke about hometown life saying he was, “born and grew up in Statesville, N.C., a typical small town, USA…little town. My father was a preacher there, a very popular church so I knew a lot of people that lived in Statesville, a wonderful little place to grow up. Don’t know how many places you can still today just hop on your bike and ride your bike to downtown to go buy some candy or get a milkshake or walk with your brothers and sisters to the movie theatre from your house. But my childhood is full of those memories and just the friendliness of the people around there, our neighbors, where I went to school. I moved when I was nine years old, just about to turn nine and would love to go back and see a lot of those places again. It was a wonderful place to grow up”
Astronaut Dr. Tom Marshburn appeared at the Iredell County Public Library on
Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
For the Statesville Record and Landmark
Sept. 29, 2009