In 2022, Public Welfare Foundation is celebrating 75 years of advancing social justice through targeted investments.

Brief History

Public Welfare Foundation was founded in 1947 by Charles Edward Marsh to make “gifts for education, charitable or benevolent uses in accordance with a plan which shall meet the changing need for such gifts with flexibility….”

The Foundation’s first grant was made in 1948. As the Foundation grew, Marsh built a network of “agents” assigned to find worthwhile recipients.

Since its founding, the Foundation has made over 5,700 grants totaling more than $700 million. With current assets of more than $620 million, Public Welfare Foundation looks for strategic points where its funds can make a significant difference. The Foundation focuses its grant making in some difficult, and often overlooked, social justice areas where it believes it can serve as a catalyst for reform in adult and youth justice.

The Life & Legacy of Charles Marsh

Charles Edward Marsh landed his first job in 1909, as a $25-a-week reporter for a small Oklahoma newspaper. A born entrepreneur, he scraped together $2,500, partnered with brothers E.S. and Charles E. Fentress and built the Marsh-Fentress newspaper chain. As his fortune swelled, he retained strong populist views.

During the Roosevelt era, Marsh moved from Texas to a mansion off Washington’s DuPont Circle and an estate in the Virginia hunt country, where he entertained influential political and intellectual figures.

In 1947, he made a formal commitment to philanthropy by incorporating Public Welfare Foundation and designating it to receive his newspapers’ assets upon his death. He deliberately chose a vague name to allow the Foundation to evolve with the times.

Marsh oversaw the Foundation’s work until his health began to decline in 1953. He died in 1964. Claudia Haines Marsh, his third wife, was the Foundation’s president from 1952 to 1974, and she remained a guiding influence until her own death, at the age of 100, in the year 2000.