If laughter is ever appropriate at a funeral, it is because it is a fitting tribute to someone who brought the gift of laughter to all who knew him. The funeral service for radio personality Royal Marshall on Saturday, Jan. 22, at Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur was filled with stories of professional accomplishment, dedicated volunteer work and close personal relationships, punctuated with funny stories and recollections.
Rahul Bali, Marshall’s colleague at WSB Radio, told of when he ordered a cake to celebrate the first anniversary of Marshall’s program, The Royal Treatment. Bali recalled hastily picking up the cake from the bakery and presenting it to the show’s host just before air time. The image on the cake was a man at a microphone, but the man didn’t look much like Marshall.
“He thanked me politely for the cake, then on the air, he asked, ‘Why is there a White man on my cake?’ For the rest of the show he ribbed me about it saying things like, ‘After all the strides Black people have made in this country, I still can’t get a Black man on my cake.’”
DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, who presented a proclamation on behalf of the residents of DeKalb County, also recalled a funny moment with Marshall. Ellis was Marshall’s on-air guest and enjoying answering “softball” questions when Marshall encouraged the listeners to get tougher with him. “Hey,” Ellis quoted him as saying, “I’ve got the CEO of DeKalb County here. I’ll hold him while you hit him.”
Talk show host Neal Boortz, who seemed so choked with emotion that he could barely speak, said Marshall, who was the producer of The Neal Boortz Show for 17 years, was the only person he had ever known “who was always in a good mood every day of his life,” and who had a limitless capacity for putting others in a good mood. “He could make anyone feel good about themselves and their life.”
The sentiment was echoed by Ray of Hope Pastor Cynthia Hale, who gave the eulogy, and numerous others who spoke at the service. Like many others, Hale remembered Marshall for his devotion to his family, his church and his community. “If there is one word that describes Royal it’s faithful,” she said.
Sandra Barnhill of Forever Family, a non-profit organization that serves children with parents in prison, spoke of how he worked tirelessly for the charity, arriving at 5 a.m. even on cold winter mornings to take children to visit a parent in prison. “He didn’t do things to be in the spotlight; he did them because he genuinely cared about people,” she said.
Marshall, who was 38 when he married, was devoted to his two daughters—Amira, 4, and Ava, 2, according to many who spoke at the service. “He even painted their little toenails,” said Hale. “He loved playing with them, but Royal was himself a big kid at heart.”
Boortz commented, “Too much has been said about his work at WSB, because his family was the biggest thing in his life.” Still, Boortz said Marshall would not soon be forgotten at WSB. He said that during World War II when London was being bombed periodically, signs were placed in the subways that read, “Be calm and carry on.” He said a replica of one of those signs would be placed in the engineering booth where Marshall spent much of his professional life.
Marshall died suddenly of a heart attack at age 43 on the morning of Jan. 15.