January 14, 2021

VUMC mourns loss of Division of Allergy and Immunology founder Marney

Samuel Rowe Marney Jr., MD, the founder of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Vanderbilt, died peacefully at home Jan. 7 with family at his side.


Samuel Rowe Marney Jr., MD, the founder of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Vanderbilt, died peacefully at home Jan. 7 with family at his side. He was 86. Dr. Marney had suffered a series of medical setbacks over the past two years and was on hospice at the time of his death.

Samuel Rowe Marney Jr., MD

“Friends and colleagues have described Dr. Marney as the consummate gentleman. He was kind, gracious, and was known for his quick wit and charm,” said Bobo Tanner, MD, assistant professor of Medicine.

Dr. Marney was born in Bristol, Virginia, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Virginia and then began his long and distinguished medical career when he matriculated to the UVA College of Medicine.

He enrolled in an Internal Medicine residency training at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which was later interrupted by two years in the U.S. Air Force. He earned the rank of Captain and was stationed in Korea, which instilled a lasting love of the Far East.

When he returned to the U.S., he completed his internal medical and infectious diseases training at Vanderbilt, followed by a year in Oxford, England, doing hematology research from 1967-1968. Upon returning to Vanderbilt, he was a productive research scientist in complement biology with his mentor and dear friend, Roger Des Prez, MD.

He was asked to “babysit” the Allergy Clinic by the chair of the Department of Medicine at the time, Grant Liddle, MD, while a permanent head of Allergy was recruited. As it became apparent that Dr. Marney would stay in the Division of Allergy, he spent a year of further training in allergy & immunology at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, from 1973-1974, and then returned to Nashville as the head of the division (at the time, a division of one).

He continued to pursue research interests and worked with John Oates, MD, the first head of Vanderbilt Clinical Pharmacology and later chair of the Department of Medicine, on understanding mast cell activation, and enjoyed receiving referrals of patients from across the country with what is now known as mast cell activation disorder. Dr. Marney’s and Dr. Oates’s collaboration also resulted in a New England Journal of Medicine research paper detailing the pathogenesis of carcinoid syndrome.

He participated energetically in the Southeastern Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Society and served as president from 1986-1987. The Society presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

“Sam fostered the Allergy division and watched it grow over the next 40 years. He served as the fellowship director for 30 of those years. Teaching and mentoring medical students, residents and Allergy and Immunology fellows were some of the greatest joys of his career,” said Stokes Peebles, MD, professor of Medicine and the Elizabeth and John Murray chair in Medicine.

In 2010, as a tribute to his lasting legacy, the Sam Marney Award for Excellence in Allergy & Immunology Training was created and bestowed upon a fellow in training each year who embodies the commitment to the excellence long ago established by its namesake.

“My father was also a master clinician, or a “doctor’s doctor.” He developed relationships with patients that showed tremendous compassion, humor, warmth and kindness,” said Dr. Marney’s daughter, Annis Marney, MD, a Vanderbilt-trained endocrinologist. “He remembered life details that showed a depth of caring above and beyond the usual standards. He took time to talk in depth with his patients and truly enjoyed knowing them, and they him. He worked at both Vanderbilt and at the VA Hospital for his entire career, almost always sporting one of his trademark bowties.”

Dr. Marney’s wife, Betty, the love of his life, died unexpectedly in May 2020, and he was heartbroken, Annis Marney said. He is survived by his son, Samuel Rowe Marney III of Memphis, and granddaughters Dylan Elizabeth Marney and Alexis Quinn Marney and their mother, Tara Gruet Marney; his daughter, Annis Morison Marney and her husband, Glenn Gustus Dukes, Jr., of Nashville and their children Ian Marney Dukes and Annis Kyle (AK) Morison Dukes; and his sister, Nancy Marney, of Bristol, Virginia.

Due to the pandemic, a small, private funeral service will be held at West End United Methodist Church on Saturday, Jan. 16. Memorial gifts may be made to the West End United Methodist Church General or Music Fund, the Vanderbilt University Canby Robinson Society, or the Beersheba Springs Medical Clinic.