Marvin, Robert E.

February 10, 1920–June 25, 2001

In 1947 Marvin established a private practice in landscape architecture in the town of Walterboro, the county seat of his native Colleton County but far from urbanized areas where most landscape architects tended to congregate.

Landscape architect. Marvin was born in Colleton County on February 10, 1920, the son of W. R. Marvin and Alta E. Marvin. The grandson of a rice planter, he was raised on the 15,000-acre Bonnie Doone Plantation, where his father was overseer. As a child, Marvin explored the lowcountry marshlands and forests, developing an appreciation for the land and the natural environment. After observing the work of the New York landscape architects Innocenti and Webel on the plantation gardens, Marvin pursued a degree in horticulture at Clemson College. Following graduation in 1941, he served as a captain in the U.S. Army during World War II. He returned to study landscape architecture in the graduate program at the University of Georgia (both of his alma maters would later honor him with distinguished alumni awards). He married Anna Lou Carrington in 1947, and they had two children.

In 1947 Marvin established a private practice in landscape architecture in the town of Walterboro, the county seat of his native Colleton County but far from urbanized areas where most landscape architects tended to congregate. Early in his career he developed a guiding philosophy, “to create and design an environment in which each individual can grow and develop to be a full human being as God intended him to be.” Despite the scarcity of work for a landscape architect in Walterboro, Marvin, supported by Anna Lou, set his standards high, determining that he would not be involved in a project without control over “everything outside the walls of the building.” Sensitivity to the natural environment was essential to his work. “We need to knock the walls down and let nature in again,” he stated. “[M]an needs to get out of his box that technology has created. He needs to wrap his arms around nature.”

Because he structured his practice to be responsive to the natural environment of his native Southeast, Marvin focused his energy on regional projects. Some of his notable projects within South Carolina include Harbor Town at Sea Pines Plantation, Hilton Head Island (1969); Henry C. Chambers Park, Beaufort (1976); and the Governor’s Mansion and Finlay Park in Columbia.

Marvin was noted for his sensitive design responses to the fragile lowcountry natural environment in which he worked. Uncompromising in his approach to his work, he influenced the next generation of landscape architects profoundly. Marvin was honored with numerous national, regional, and local awards, including induction into the Fellows of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the South Carolina Order of the Palmetto, and the South Carolina Hall of Fame. Records of his professional work and awards have been selected for inclusion in the South Caroliniana Library. Marvin was one of the first landscape architects in South Carolina, and his career spanned six decades. He died on June 25, 2001, and was buried in Live Oak Cemetery in Walterboro.

Thompson, J. William. “Southern Savior.” Landscape Architecture 87 (June 1997): 74–79, 93–97.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Marvin, Robert E.
  • Coverage February 10, 1920–June 25, 2001
  • Author
  • Keywords Landscape architect, raised on the 15,000-acre Bonnie Doone Plantation, captain in the U.S. Army during World War II, focused his energy on regional projects,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 31, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2017
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