Rev. Hal Marchman Passes


March 15, 2009
Pastor spent life reaching out to everyone

"Shalom and amen."With that trademark ending to prayers he offered before every Daytona 500 for 46 years, the Rev. Hal Marchman endeared himself to race car drivers and hundreds of thousands of their fans.It was the Baptist preacher’s way of being inclusive, the same way he lived his life, whether he was counseling an alcoholic or persuading community leaders to take on some civic project.Marchman, 89, died unexpectedly at Indigo Palms Memory Care Facility on Sunday. After years of fighting dementia and memory loss, a sudden bout of illness ended his life, said his daughter Anne Marchman-Jones.

“We feel like we got our fair share of time with him, but it’s hard because we didn’t expect (his death) to be so sudden,” Marchman-Jones said Sunday.The Georgia native first moved to Daytona Beach with his wife, Mary, after World War II to run a grocery store on South Beach Street.It wasn’t long before Marchman, who had developed a drinking problem as a young soldier, realized he needed help and started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with a cousin.

That, in turn, led to his joining Central Baptist Church, where he soon felt a calling to become a minister.The Marchmans sold the store and both enrolled at Stetson University in DeLand. He went on to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary after that and served seven years at a church in Emminence, Ky., before returning to Central Baptist as its pastor in 1959.

That was the same year Marchman’s friend, Bill France, asked him to deliver the invocation before the inaugural Daytona 500, a duty he performed annually as the Daytona International Speedway’s unofficial chaplain through 2004.“Rev. Hal Marchman was a true friend to Daytona International Speedway and will be sorely missed,” said Robin Braig, president of the Speedway.

"He touched many lives at the Speedway, from the competitors to the race fans."We’re thankful and grateful for his many years of service to the Speedway, but also to the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Marchman family."Not only did Marchman pray with the drivers and fans before the race, he spent the rest of the day in the hospital area at the track to be available for drivers’ families if anyone was hurt.

“Hal was a servant and a shepherd,” said NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip, adding that Marchman always "took good care of his flock."Waltrip said he imagines Marchman now "in heaven alongside Mr. (Bill) France."Marchman’s death will affect many, but his countless contributions to the Greater Daytona Beach Area and elsewhere live on.

There are the addicts whose lives were reclaimed because of a legislative act named after Marchman which expanded laws relating to the commitment and treatment of substance abusers, and a treatment center that bears his name.“Hal knew what it was like to fight alcoholism. It made him a special person. You can’t have a testimony if you don’t have a test. Hal had been tested and he had passed,” said Waltrip, 62.

Legions of local students depended on Marchman for years to defend their interests in Tallahassee as a legislative lobbyist for the Volusia County School Board. He warmed countless jail inmates with his understanding and common sense. And local leaders often turned to Marchman with difficult decisions.Over the years, he received countless awards and attended many ceremonies in his honor, but they weren’t the things that Marchman hung his life hat on, his daughter said.Love was where he always hung it, she said.She and so many others who knew Marchman said they’ve never met someone so kind with "such love for his fellow man."He was known in the religious community for inviting divorced people into his congregation despite expressions of shock from other spiritual leaders.

In politics, Marchman put his work into the issues he thought needed it at the time, whether it was education or substance abuse treatment or just encouraging civic involvement in the community.And though he “had influence everywhere, Hal never used it for personal gain,” said Ernest Cantley, president of the Stewart-Marchman-Act Foundation.“He was one of a kind and this community will sorely miss Hal Marchman,” Cantley said. “We have some great leaders, but none are like Hal. There will be a void in Volusia and Flagler (counties) for years to come.”