Lilah Marshall, former Bama Pie president, dies at 96
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Saturday, October 27, 2012
10/29/12 at 2:23 PM
Voices of Oklahoma: Listen to an interview with Lilah Marshall
Lilah Belle Marshall, a past president and chairwoman of Tulsa-based Bama Pie Co., died Wednesday, family members said. She was 96.
A visitation is set for 2-7 p.m. Sunday at Stanleys Funeral Home, and a memorial service is set for 11:30 a.m. Monday at Asbury United Methodist Church.
Marshall and her late husband, Paul Marshall, started the Tulsa location of Bama in 1937.
Today, under company CEO Paula Marshall, Lilah and Paul Marshall's daughter, Bama Cos. employs 1,000 people in Tulsa and has another operation in China, manufacturing a variety of foods for some of the world's largest retailers.
Without the family matriarch, none of it would have been possible, family members say.
"Dad was the engine, but Mom was the rudder," their son, Roger Marshall, said. "There would've been no Bama Pies without her. In many ways, she was the heart and soul of it."
In business as in life, the couple complemented each other, he added. Although his father could be hard and demanding, his mother's softer, gentler touch had a leavening effect.
"When he tore employees apart, she was the one who put them back together," he said. "She was a very compassionate person."
With her husband often traveling for the job, Lilah Marshall remained in Tulsa, overseeing plant operations while caring for their children.
A native of Oklahoma City and graduate of Capitol Hill High School, Lilah Drake was 19 and working at a small Bama Pie facility in Oklahoma City when Paul Marshall first saw her.
The two hit it off almost instantly. They married about two months later.
From there, after a brief stay in Waco, Texas, they took Bama to Tulsa.
Moving into a three-room house at 11th Street and Delaware Avenue, the Marshalls lived in the back and cooked pies in the front, eventually expanding and adding delivery routes.
Going from pie-makers to suppliers, the Marshalls worked together to survive lean times and near-bankruptcy. Then, in the late 1960s, they scored their biggest coup - producing apple pies for McDonald's.
Marshall and her husband, who died in 1994, began stepping away in the mid-1980s, turning day-to-day operations over to their daughter.
But Lilah Marshall maintained an active interest in the business. As recently as five years ago, she was "still looking at the books. She could still spot mistakes and ask the right questions," her son said.
Bama Pie had its origins in 1920s Dallas, when Paul Marshall's mother, Alabama Marshall, began making homemade pies, which her husband and children then sold door-to-door.
Paul and Lilah Marshall later laid the foundation for what the company has become, family members said.
To honor her husband's memory, Lilah Marshall began a tradition 18 years ago after his death - an annual Christmas lights display.
Organized at their home at 3507 E. 21st St., where they had lived since 1950, the spectacular display, encompassing the house and a now-80-foot tree that she planted, has received lots of media attention over the years.
"We debated whether to do it this year," Roger Marshall said. "But we decided to for Mom. So it will be there for at least one more holiday season."
Lilah Marshall was preceded in death by her husband and one son, John Marshall.
Her survivors include two children, Paula Marshall and Roger Marshall; 12 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.
Original Print Headline: Former Bama Pie president dies at 96
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Lilah Belle Marshall: Going from pie-makers to suppliers, she and her husband, Paul Marshall, worked together to survive lean times and near-bankruptcy. Then, in the late 1960s, they scored their biggest coup — producing apple pies for McDonald's.