Marmaduke Dent was born at Granville in Monongalia County on April 18, 1849. During his childhood, the nation was descending into the Civil War.
His father, Marshall Mortimer Dent, as editor of Morgantown’s Virginia Weekly Star newspaper, favored compromise to save the Union, and, as a delegate to the Virginia secession convention, voted against secession.
In 1867, Marmaduke Dent enrolled in West Virginia University’s first class and received the school’s first B.A. and M.A. degrees. He became a teacher in Taylor County, where he was also a deputy clerk and notary public. In 1875, he started a legal practice in Grafton, where he also served on the city council, as town clerk, and on the school board.
From 1893 to 1905, Dent was a justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court. As a Democratic-Populist, he declared war on railroads and other corporations but, as a minority of one on the court, generally fell on the losing side in most cases.
After being defeated for reelection in 1904, Marmaduke Dent retired to Grafton, where he died in 1909 at age 60.