David Marshall Scholarship

The David Marshall Scholarship was established to honour the legacy of the late Mr Marshall.

  • Mr David Marshall

I’d like to see Singapore grow up to its potential as the lighthouse of Southeast Asia. We have that potential. I won’t live to see it, but I’m glad to be Singaporean.

The David Marshall Scholarship was made possible with gifts from several individuals, corporations, foundations and legal firms to honour the legacy of the late Mr David Marshall (1908-1995). As Singapore’s first Chief Minister, head of the Labour Front and founder of the Workers’ Party, his life story was intertwined with Singapore’s history. He was highly regarded as a great criminal and constitutional lawyer of his time. He also led Singapore’s early moves towards independence, and in his later years was a diplomat representing Singapore in Europe. His life was characterised by courage, integrity and passion – for Singapore, for constitutional democracy and for human rights.

Following his graduation from the University of London, Mr Marshall was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1937 and returned to Singapore to start his legal career. As World War II intensified, Mr Marshall chose to remain in Singapore and joined the Singapore Volunteer Corps. He was captured by Japanese forces following the Fall of Singapore in February 1942, and was transported to a series of Prisoner-of-War camps in Singapore and northern Japan. He was warmly remembered by fellow Prisoners-of-War for standing up to Japanese officers on their behalf.

Following the war, Mr Marshall became a formidable and eloquent criminal lawyer, whose successes were particularly remarkable during the period in which Singapore held trials by jury. His anti-colonial ideals led him to enter politics, and as the fiery leader of the Labour Front, he won Singapore’s first Legislative Assembly elections. As Chief Minister from 1955-1956, he initiated efforts to win self-government for Singapore and introduced a broad range of essential national policies to promote education and labour rights. He founded the Workers’ Party in 1957 and won a by-election in Anson four years later.

Mr Marshall remained politically active throughout his legal career, defending a number of key criminal, constitutional and human rights cases. He was passionately opposed to capital punishment, which he described as “human sacrifice”. While he was not afraid of being critical of the government of the time, he was always a patriotic Singaporean. In 1979, he became Singapore’s first Ambassador to France and later to Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. Mr Marshall’s family lived in Paris from 1978-1993. He retired in 1993 and passed away two years later.

Mr Marshall was given the title of Dato Johan Kurnia Pahlawan by the Sultan of Pahang in 1965, Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur of France in 1978, and the Meritorious Service Medal of Singapore in 1990. In 1992, he was made an Honorary Member and Fellow for Life of the Singapore Academy of Law and in 1997, the National University of Singapore conferred on him an Honorary Doctorate of Laws.

In one of the last interviews Mr Marshall did, he shared, “I’d like to see Singapore grow up to its potential as the lighthouse of Southeast Asia. We have that potential. I won’t live to see it, but I’m glad to be Singaporean.”

In memory and honour of Mr Marshall, this scholarship is the first five-year scholarship at Yale-NUS. It is awarded to students admitted to the Double Degree Programme in Law and Liberal Arts, jointly offered by Yale-NUS College and the NUS Faculty of Law.