Marshall Burk was born in Lynn, Massachusetts on July 24, 1929. His father was a contractor in Boston, and suffered economically when the Depression hit. He graduated from Swampscott High School and joined the Army during World War II. After returning, he attended the University of Maine at Orono on the GI Bill, until he was recalled by the Army to serve in the Korean War. He finished his degree in wildlife and forestry upon his return from the South Pacific. He taught middle school for nine years, then went to work for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
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L'Hommedieu, Andrea, "Burk, Marshall oral history interview" (2003). Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection. 55.