Stetson Law mourns the passing of Professor Thomas C. Marks Jr.

Dr. Thomas C. Marks Jr.

The Stetson University College of Law mourns the passing of Dr. Thomas C. Marks Jr., a constitutional law professor who was an integral part of the Stetson Law community for more than 50 years.

He died in Ocala, Fla., in September.

Marks devoted his career to helping thousands of law students understand and love the complexities of the federal and state constitutions. As a well-known scholar in constitutional law, many people – from practitioners, judges, scholars, and students – sought his views. He was a ready volunteer in student-sponsored activities and active in the law school community even beyond his retirement in 2007.

“I met Tom last year and was immediately enthralled by his heart and brilliance,” said Dean Michèle Alexandre. “His sense of humor and kindness were contagious. He loved the law school, and this love was palpable. During my time with Tom, I also had the pleasure of seeing his friendship with our beloved Dean Bruce Jacob. Watching their friendship cemented my deep belief that the Stetson spirit is in essence purely collaborative and loving.”

It was a bittersweet celebration when Professor Marks retired from full-time teaching.

Jacob remembered his friend for moments of laughter – like the time Jacob found a student outside Marks’ office. The student noticed someone else was in the room ahead of her and waited her turn politely instead of knocking. Jacob had to break it to her it was not another student but rather a life-sized cut out of John Wayne Marks kept by his office door.

Jacob also recalled his colleague for his generosity – like the year Jacob was called upon to teach a section of constitutional law. It had been 40 years since he’d last delved deeply into the subject, so Marks met him every day during that first semester to patiently answer his questions and explain the aspects of constitutional law Jacob needed to teach that course.

“He was a great teacher, a wonderful person and a very good friend,” Jacob said. “His passing is a tremendous loss to all of us.”

Education and Experience

Marks’ Stetson graduation.

Marks earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and his Juris Doctor from Stetson in 1963. Upon graduating from law school, he clerked with a local law firm briefly before changing his reserve military status to active duty in the U.S. Army Jag corps. After training, he headed to Vietnam as part of the 4th Transportation Command to manage the waterfronts and ports. He returned home after a year but remained in the reserves for another nine years, leaving the military with the rank of Major.

Marks practiced law for two years before completing a doctorate in political science from The University of Florida. Academia felt like the logical move, and he taught political science and criminal justice at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.

Stetson Law Dean Richard Dillon lured Marks from Alabama to return to his alma mater to join the law faculty in 1973. He taught U.S. and Florida constitutional law until his retirement in December 2007. He was inducted into the Stetson University College of Law Hall of Fame that same year. At that time, he said beyond his loving family, his greatest sense of accomplishment was the joy he found in teaching students. He said he felt blessed with cherished staff and faculty colleagues over the years.

Professor Marks and his wife, Nancy, at the Hall of Fame ceremony when he was inducted.

“He was extremely well-liked by many faculty, even folks like myself who were diametrically opposed in the political sphere,” said Professor Ellen Podgor.

She visited him after he retired and said it was wonderful to “talk about constitutional issues with a man who valued legal scholarship and enjoyed discussing the law.  He was a man who loved Stetson and was extremely devoted to the law school. And this loss will be a difficult one for many here, including myself.”   

Scholarly and Community Impact

Marks authored several books, including co-authoring the second edition of State Constitutional Law In A Nutshell and the fourth edition of Florida Constitutional Law. He wrote or co-wrote more than 50 law review articles and publications. He maintained many professional memberships, including with the United States Supreme Court Bar, the United States Court of Military Appeals Bar, the Supreme Court of Florida Bar, the U.S. Armor Association, the Professional Board of Editors of the annual State Constitutional Commentary issue of the Albany Law Review, the U.S. Naval Institute, the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, and as a voracious reader, the Gulfport Library.

Spirituality was essential in Marks’ life. He provided the invocation remarks at countless Stetson ceremonies and taught adult Sunday school class at Pasadena Community Church before he and his wife of more than 50 years, Nancy, moved to Ocala. 

They devoted their 1.5 acres to more than 30 special needs rescue dogs at what they called Freckles Farm, named for one of their beloved pooches. He told Stetson Lawyer magazine in 2018 that he believed it was important to find work-life balance and identify ways to give back.  

“It’s one of the ways we contribute to society.”

Stetson Legacy

During his career, Marks established a Memorial Scholarship Fund in memory of his parents, Thomas C. Marks Sr. and Bernadine B. Marks. This annual scholarship is awarded to an entering first year student with financial need, who has demonstrated successful academic performance in his or her undergraduate institution. Following his retirement, The Thomas C. Marks Scholarship in Constitutional Law was created in his honor.