|Intro||American politician and businessman|
|From||United States of America|
|Birth||1 September 1918, Jefferson County, Alabama, USA|
|Death||30 October 2017, Gadsden, Etowah County, Alabama, USA (aged 99 years)|
|Politics||Democratic Party, Republican Party|
James Douglas Martin (September 1, 1918 – October 30, 2017) was an American businessman and Republican politician from the U.S. state of Alabama, who served a single term in the United States House of Representatives from 1965 to 1967. His 1962 campaign for the United States Senate against the Democrat J. Lister Hill was the first serious showing by a member of his party in Alabama since Reconstruction.
Born in Tarrant in Jefferson County, Alabama, Martin attended public schools and the Birmingham School of Law. In 1937, he began working in the petroleum industry. In July 1941, he enlisted in the United States Army and subsequently commanded an artillery battery in the Third Army under General George S. Patton, Jr., in the European Theater of Operations of World War II. An intelligence officer in the Army of Occupation, he was discharged as a Major in March 1946. He returned to Alabama to work as an oil products distributor. He was United Methodist.
1962 Senate campaign
Originally a conservative Democrat, Martin joined the GOP in order to challenge Senator Joseph Lister Hill. No Republican had even opposed Hill since 1944, when John A. Posey had drawn 17 percent of the vote. Hill recognized that a backlash among some southern white voters against the administration of U.S. President John F. Kennedy could weaken his own prospects for a fifth and final term in office. He hence devised an effective strategy which only barely staved off defeat: denounce Kennedy's ongoing intervention in the desegregation of the University of Mississippi at Oxford but simultaneously extol the "Alabama Democratic Party" and deny inconsistency between his status as a Washington insider and his membership in a rebellious state party. Hill blamed the federal judiciary for desegregation and recalled that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, had intervened in a similar situation in the desegregation of Central High School in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Hill gained support from both incoming Governor George Corley Wallace, Jr., and Attorney General Richmond Flowers, Sr., who unsuccessfully opposed Wallace's wife, Lurleen Burns Wallace, in the 1966 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Wallace in particular excoriated critics of "free enterprise ... and the social order in the South. ... For years the Democratic Party was held together by the people of the South, and we have the right to tell them [Washington, D.C.] that we disagree." Having prevailed in a primary runoff but unopposed in the 1962 general election, Wallace assured voters that Alabama Democrats were unbridled by the national party. Flowers lamented "the darkest hour for Alabama and Mississippi since Lee surrendered in 1865 at Appomattox and pledged to retain segregation at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and Auburn University in Auburn.
The fact that Martin's senatorial candidacy attracted attention was itself a novelty in Alabama, for earlier Republican candidates had been ignored by the politicians, the media, and the electorate. In accepting nomination at the state convention in Birmingham, Martin offered a vision of Republicanism counter to that in the northern states. He admonished Alabama to return to "the spirit of '61" - 1861, when our fathers formed a new nation (Confederate States of America). God-willing, we will not again be forced to take up rifle and bayonet to preserve these principles. . . . Make no mistake, my friends, this will be a fight. The bugle call is loud and clear. The South has risen! We have heard the call!" Martin's campaign prompted the Democratic editor Ralph McGill of the Atlanta Constitution to compare this new breed of southern Republicans to the Dixiecrat insurgency led in 1948 against U.S. President Harry Truman by then Governor and later U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.
Lister Hill's political standing
A champion of New Deal domestic programs, Hill criticized Eisenhower's attempts to reduce hospital funding under the Hill-Burton Act that he had co-sponsored. Unlike most southern senators, Hill favored federal control of offshore oil with proceeds earmarked for education. Hill strongly supported rural electrification, federally subsidized freight rates, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Martin also supported the TVA and noted that the original sponsor of the inter-state development agency was a Republican U.S. senator, George W. Norris of Nebraska. Martin said that the TVA headquarters should be relocated from Knoxville, Tennessee, to its original point of development, Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Hill claimed credit for the deepening of the Mobile Ship Channel, the building of the Gainesville Lock and Dam in Sumter County, and the proposed Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, a much-criticized link between the Tennessee River with the Gulf of Mexico. According to Hill, "If Alabama is to continue the progress and development she has achieved, she cannot do so by deserting the great Democratic Party."
Senator Hill pledged to seek renewed funding for the Redstone Arsenal and George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and accused Eisenhower of having neglected the space program while the former Soviet Union was placing Sputnik into the atmosphere. Strongly endorsed by organized labor, Hill accused the GOP of exploiting the South to enrich the North and the East and attacked the legacy of former President Herbert C. Hoover and the earlier "evils" of Reconstruction. He boasted that Alabama voters would bury the Republicans "under an avalanche."
Martin's anti-Kennedy campaign
Unable to match Hill's skill at landing public works projects, Martin concentrated his fire on the Kennedy administration. He condemned the candidacy of Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the younger brother of the president who was elected to the Senate on the same day that Martin lost to Lister Hill. Martin assailed what he called "the conquest of Mississippi" and the "invasion" of Ole Miss by federal troops dispatched by President Kennedy to compel desegregation. Martin called Hill "the No. 1 Kennedy man in the South" and suggested Alabama voters were "sick, tired, and disgusted" with the Kennedy administration's New Frontier. Martin demanded that Hill "deny or affirm an ultra-liberal voting record" shared by liberal senators Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota, Jacob K. Javits of New York, and Wayne Morse of Oregon. Martin claimed that Kennedy had delayed signing an executive order to integrate federal housing were not he fearful that Hill could lose the Senate race in Alabama. Martin alleged a "conspiracy" between Hill and Kennedy and questioned why Hill would not "acknowledge his friendship and support" for the president. Martin joked that his challenge had "finally brought Hill home after twenty years in an (Washington) isolation booth."
Other Republicans joined Martin in attacking Hill's candidacy. Mobile attorney William Brevard Hand, later named to a south Alabama federal judgeship by President Richard Nixon, claimed that Hill had not defended states rights with sufficient fervor. Later U.S. Representative John Hall Buchanan, Jr., of Birmingham, then a conservative but later considered among the most liberal members of the party, said that the Alabama congressional delegation had responded to the University of Mississippi desegregation "only after intense pressure from the home folks." Buchanan said that the Alabama congressmen had "nodded their heads 'yes' when the Kennedys asked them to, and have come back home and denied they were national Democrats."
President Kennedy's role in the 1962 mid-term elections was overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis. Martin joined Hill in endorsing the quarantine of Cuba but insisted that the problem was an outgrowth of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961. Hill said that Soviet premier Nikita S. Khrushchev had "chickened out" because "the one thing the communists respect is strength." The New York Times speculated that the blockade ordered by Kennedy may have spared Hill from defeat. Despite the postwar bipartisan consensus for foreign aid, Martin hammered away at Hill's backing for such programs. He decried subsidies to foreign manufacturers and workers at the expense of Alabama's then large force of textile workers: "These foreign giveaways have cost taxpayers billions of dollars and turned many areas of Alabama into distressed areas." Martin also condemned aid to communist countries and the impact of the United Nations on national policy. He questioned Hill's congressional seniority as of little use when troops were dispatched to Ole Miss.
An educational mission
Martin's campaign enabled the GOP to conduct an educational mission for the two-party system. "If we show strength in Alabama and other southern states, we will help to name the Republican candidate for the presidency in 1964," Martin predicted, claiming that the nominee would look favorably on the South. The Mobile Register endorsed the two-party format to stimulate the spread of ideas and to improve government: "It takes only an unprejudiced attitude to recognize the potentialities ... from two-party political vigor." The Huntsville Times noted with amusement that voting for a Republican in Alabama could "constitute a crime or start convolutions in ancestral graves. ... [one can] hardly pick up a cup of coffee ... without hearing grumbling around the table about Bobby Kennedy's interference in the South ... or the need to kick the Reds out of Cuba. ... But vote Republican? That is another thing." Though it editorialized for a two-party system in theory, The Huntsville Times endorsed Lister Hill. The newspaper conceded that Martin had defended states rights but noted that three key New York liberal Republicans, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and Senators Kenneth B. Keating and Jacob Javits, were hostile to "limited government" and "local autonomy." The publication urged the Republicans to hold primary elections in 1964 and field a full slate, rather than singling out one contest, as they had done in 1962.
Republican prospects were dampened by the Alabama legislature's implementation of the "vote-for-eight" requirement for the then at-large U.S. House races. Because the GOP offered only three House candidates, the Republicans either had to back five Democrats or to write-in other names on the ballot. GOP chairman John Grenier of Birmingham, who would emerge with Martin as a key figure and even an intraparty rival in their party's resurgence, denounced the "vote-for-eight" clause, which was upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court as a prohibition against "complete freedom of choice." Republicans hence had to dilute the strength of their nominees by being compelled to support five other candidates. After 1962, "vote-for-eight" was struck down by the United States Supreme Court, which required single-member House districts.
Martin employed Country music bands to stir up enthusiasm and plastered the state with billboards which omitted his party affiliation. His failure to identify himself as a Republican in his advertising seemed to contradict the mission of his candidacy. The discrepancy prompted Hill to denounce "glorified pawn brokers ... ashamed to admit that they're running as Republicans." Because Alabama then had no significant GOP base, Martin sought to appeal to Independents and the more conservative Democrats
The Hill-Martin race drew considerable national attention. The liberal columnist Drew Pearson wrote from Decatur, Alabama, that "for the first time since Reconstruction, the two-party system, which political scientists talk about for the South, but never expect to materialize, may come to Alabama." The New York Times viewed the Alabama race as the most vigorous off-year effort in modern southern history but predicted a Hill victory on the basis that Martin had failed to gauge "bread-and-butter" issues and was viewed as an "ultraconservative."
1962 results and analysis
Martin lost by 6,019 votes, having polled 195,134 ballots (49.1 percent) to Hill's 201,937 (50.9 percent). Turnout dropped sharply in 1962 compared to 1960, when presidential electors dominated the ballot, and the state split between Kennedy-Johnson and unpledged electors who ultimately voted for U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr., of Virginia. Republican Julian E. Elgin of Montgomery had received 164,868 votes (29.8 percent) in his challenge to the Democrat John Sparkman, who had in 1952 been Adlai E. Stevenson's vice-presidential choice and hence slated opposite Richard M. Nixon. Elgin and Sparkman had polled a combined 647,006 ballots, compared to the Hill-Martin total of 397,071. Hence nearly 250,000 who had voted for the Senate in 1960, a presidential election year, did not do so in the mid-term race in 1962. Oddly, Martin polled only 30,266 more votes than had Elgin, but the Republican share of the vote was 19.3 points higher than in 1960 because of lower turnout in the latter year. More than a third of Alabama Democrats who participated in the primary in May did not vote in the 1962 general election. The stable support given Elgin and Martin indicated the development of a constituency for any statewide Republican candidate in Alabama. Richard Nixon had received 41.7 percent of the vote in Alabama in 1960.
Martin obtained majorities in thirty of the sixty-seven counties and carried two of the largest, Jefferson and Montgomery, by sixteen percentage points. He swept Hill's home county of Montgomery and George Wallace's Barbour County, but he lost his own Etowah County, which includes Gadsden. Hill's plurality in Etowah County represented one-third of his statewide margin. Martin polled more than 70 percent in three counties, Choctaw, Marengo, and Houston. His weakest winning county was Mobile, where he was held to 52.1 percent. He won 57.9 percent in the "Free State of Winston," the state's most traditionally GOP turf.
In the U.S. House races, John Buchanan chalked up the best showing of the three Republicans running, but his 141,202 votes statewide were insufficient to dislodge the incumbent Democrat Carl Elliott of Jasper. The Mobile Register theorized that the prestige of the Hill-Burton Act had spared the veteran Democrat from defeat. The real surprise, the newspaper wrote, is not that Hill prevailed but that his margin was so thin. Three Republicans were elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in the 1962 general election, all serving one term: Tandy Little of Montgomery, Donald Lamar Collins (1929-1993) of Birmingham, and John Andrew Posey, Jr. (born 1923), of Winston County.
Political scientist Walter Dean Burnham determined the Martin campaign to be an aberration from the customary issueless, personalist southern primary elections. The Martin campaign was a pacesetter for subsequent southern election in that it was waged over national issues—mobilizing the white backlash against civil rights; stressing what he saw as "free enterprise," "local control," and "individual freedom"; decrying federal spending programs; shifting emphasis from opposition to desegregation to the preservation of "states rights." Burnham noted the irony of a Republican from the populist North Alabama running strongly in the cities and Black Belt, while the Democratic senator from Montgomery appealed to the northern hill country, where voters appreciated programs like the TVA and were less racially conscious because of the relatively small number of African Americans in their region. Martin fared best in those counties with non-voting blacks, prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. All but one of the fifteen counties which showed a decline in the Republican vote between 1960 and 1962 were in the Appalachian section of North Alabama. Martin's showing along the Gulf Coast and the Florida panhandle was paradoxical in that the southeast had been traditionally the most populist since the 1890s. Two years after the Hill-Martin race, Burnham correctly forecast that the inroads of presidential Republicanism would continue in the South, but competition at the state and local levels would take root slowly.
The Hill-Martin race resembled Democratic factional contests in that it divided along class lines, with wealthier Alabamians voting Republican. One analyst joked that though "Martin was a segregationist, it is hard for a rich man's segregationist to defeat a poor man's segregationist." At a news conference in Washington, D.C., Martin blamed his loss in part on the failure of the chairman of the Republican National Committee, William E. Miller, a New York congressman who two years later would become Barry M. Goldwater's vice-presidential running mate, to commit funds to Alabama. According to Martin, Miller was unaware in 1962 that Alabama "was ready to vote Republican." Alabama Democratic chairman Roy Mayhall expressed fear that Martin's strong showing could "make Alabama a future Republican state," a scenario which did take shape some thirty years later. Martin's candidacy rekindled demands that Alabama drop its open primary for a closed nominating contest, register voters by party, and enforce partisan loyalty oaths, but as Martin's showing soon proved by 1966 to have been fleeting, the Democrats resumed their complacency and retained primaries without partisan registration.
The GOP claimed that Hill's victory stemmed from "irregularities" involving tossed-out paper ballots, and Martin hence declined to issue a formal concession. In February 1963, the Senate Subcommittee on Privileges and Election rejected Martin's petition to investigate the election. The panel concluded on a party-line vote that even if allegations of discarded ballots were valid, the number involved was insufficient to alter the outcome.
The prestige that Martin gained from his campaign brought requests to address Republican gatherings in the South. In February 1964, he joined Grenier, a New Orleans, Louisiana, native, at a fund-raising dinner in Shreveport for oilman Charlton Lyons, the first Republican to wage an active bid for the Louisiana governorship in the 20th century. Martin's claim that a Republican governor would provide regular inter-party competition proved premature. Numerous Republicans who won southern governorships after 1966, including Winthrop Rockefeller in Arkansas and Claude R. Kirk, Jr., in Florida lost reelection bids, and none established GOP majorities of significant duration in their legislatures. However, by 2011, all southern state legislatures except in Arkansas had Republican majorities.
Martin told Governor Ross Barnett of Mississippi that he too would fight desegregaton of schools, neighborhoods, and unions. Subsequently, however, Martin denied having injected race in his campaign, having instead stressed "states rights" and "constitutional government," terms which some African Americans view as "code words" for segregation.
In 1964, Alabama Republicans stood to benefit from the unintended consequences of two developments: (1) Governor Wallace vacating the race for the Democratic presidential nomination against President Johnson, and (2) the designation of unpledged Democratic electors in Alabama, in effect removing Johnson from the general election ballot. Prior to the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, Martin met with Wallace and two gubernatorial aides, Bill Jones and Seymore Trammell in the Jefferson Davis Hotel in Montgomery. Wallace asked Martin to determine if Barry Goldwater, the forthcoming GOP presidential nominee who as a senator from Arizona had voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on libertarian and constitutional grounds, would advocate repeal of the law, particularly the public accommodations and employment sections. Bill Jones indicated that Wallace agreed with Goldwater's anti-communist stance but opposed the Republican's proposal to make Social Security "voluntary." Jones stressed that Wallace had sacrificed his own presidential aspirations that year to allow a direct GOP challenge to President Johnson. It was later disclosed that during the meeting with Martin, Wallace proposed to become a Republican if he could be named as Goldwater's running mate, a designation which later was given to Congressman William E. Miller of New York. Goldwater reportedly rejected the overture because of Wallace's adverse image outside the Deep South.
The unpledged electors in Alabama included the future U.S. senator, James B. Allen, then the lieutenant governor, and the later governor Albert P. Brewer. National Democrats balked over Johnson's exclusion from the ballot but most supported the unpledged slate, which competed directly with the Republican electors. As The Tuscaloosa News explained, loyalist electors would have offered a clearer choice to voters than did the unpledged slate.
The Birmingham News columnist Walling Keith wrote that while voters might "leave the Democratic Party -- at least for an election -- most of them really would not be too happy in the Republican Party." Along with the GOP victory in Alabama at the presidential level, the first in state history since Reconstruction, Martin and four other Republicans were elected to the U.S. House in the heavily liberal 89th Congress. Joining Martin in victory were William Jackson "Jack" Edwards of Mobile County, John Buchanan, the defeated 1962 candidate from Birmingham, William Louis Dickinson of Montgomery, a former Democratic judge in Lee County, and Arthur Glenn Andrews, the Republican chairman in Talladega County.
Martin elected to the House
The Democrat whom Martin defeated was George C. Hawkins, also from Gadsden and the Alabama State Senate President Pro Tem. Martin had polled only 42.9 percent in the Seventh District in the 1962 Senate race. Including Jasper and Huntsville, as well as Martin's Gadsden, the Seventh (now the Fifth District) is diversified—steel and rubber mills, farm machinery, electronics, military and space installations, poultry, livestock, cotton, and some coal mining. At the time the Seventh contained the state's smallest black population—7.7 percent—Martin did not benefit in 1964 from racial backlash as he had running statewide in 1962. He had expressed a greater interest in Goldwater's success than he had in his own election to the House.
Some backers of unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Congressman Carl Elliott threatened to withhold votes from Hawkins or even to vote for Martin on the theory that Elliott might be able to reclaim the seat in 1966 from a Republican but would not oppose a fellow Democrat. In his campaign against Hawkins, Martin hammered at the national vice presidential nominee Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota, who was the Senate floor leader for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which Martin claimed had "paved the way for the destruction of our liberties." Martin's opposition to the civil rights measure paralleled the views of Alabama's twenty pro-Goldwater national convention delegates, who declared the measure an affront to "personal freedom of choice in association and employment."
Several of the Alabama Republican representatives made national headlines in 1965 when they denounced the voting-rights march led by Martin Luther King, Jr., from Selma to Montgomery. Though King's contributions to desegregation were subsequently commemorated through a national holiday, Martin called King a "rabble-rouser who has put on the sheep's clothing of non-violence while he pits race against race, man against law, and whose actions have repeatedly resulted in violence, injury, and death." Martin claimed that King had authorized the printing of stationery which listed King's address as the Selma jail even before King's arrest: "King reached Selma with intentions of breaking the law so that he could be arrested. His love of publicity is above the sacredness of the laws."
With promising prospects for continued growth, the Alabama GOP adopted a 1965 budget of $200,000 and proposed to offer a hundred candidates in hopes of winning a third of the seats in both houses of the Alabama legislature. Amid optimism, John Grenier left the chairmanship to prepare to run for governor. He later said that he considered the governorship out of reach in 1966, but he wanted to lay a base for the future. Grenier epitomized his party's "new breed" of leadership, which stressed political philosophy over patronage and appealed to business executives, lawyers, and other possessors of wealth. The revived Alabama GOP was a product of urbanization and industrialization. Samuel DuBois Cook, a political scientist who served as president of historically black Dillard University of New Orleans, pointed to the paradox of southern Republicans, then the most conservative in the political arena, who were nevertheless a "product of revolutionary industrial and technical change."
With Grenier in the governor's race, Martin was initially poised to oppose John Sparkman, but The New York Times predicted that toppling the "tight one-party oligarchy" would be a herculean task. Though Sparkman trailed in some polls, The Times speculated that he would rebound because Alabamians were so accustomed to voting straight Democratic tickets. Several months later Martin made a crucial decision to run for governor, instead of the Senate, and Grenier also switched races in the process. The changed plans created friction between the two men that persisted for years afterwards.
Challenging Lurleen Wallace
Martin's opponent was initially uncertain, but it soon became apparent that he would face Lurleen Wallace, a former dime-store clerk of considerable charm and grace. What remained in doubt was whether she would be governor in her own right or a "caretaker" with her husband as a "dollar-a-year-advisor" making all the major decisions. The decision to run Mrs. Wallace crippled the Alabama GOP. Nearly overnight its fortunes vanished, for most expected George Wallace to succeed in nominating and electing his wife, who conveniently was running not as the former "Lurleen Burns" but as "Mrs. George C. Wallace."
Lurleen Wallace dispatched a primary field that included two former governors, John Malcolm Patterson and James E. Folsom, Sr., Congressman Carl Elliott, and Attorney General Richmond Flowers. Neither Martin nor Mrs. Wallace sought support from the increasing number of African American voters, many of whom had been energized since passage a year earlier of the Voting Rights Act, following the impact of the Selma-to-Montgomery march. False reports of Republican strength in Alabama abounded. The New York Times predicted that Martin "not only has a chance to win the governorship, but at least for the moment must be rated as the favorite."
Political writer Theodore H. White incorrectly predicted that Alabama, instead of Arkansas and Florida as it developed, would in 1966 become the first former Confederate state to elect a Republican governor since Reconstruction. A consensus developed that Martin might lend coattails to Republican candidates in legislative, county, and municipal elections. The defections of three legislators and a member of the Democratic State Executive Committee reinforced such possibilities. The New York Times explained that Alabama Democrats had denounced the national party for so long that it was "no longer popular in many quarters to be a Democrat." Martin claimed that the South must "break away from the one-party system just as we broke away from a one-crop economy." He vowed to make Alabama "first in opportunity, jobs, and education." Keener insight at the time would have revealed that Martin was pursuing the one office essentially off limits to the GOP that year. No Republican had served as governor since David Peter Lewis left office in 1874, and George Wallace's organization was insurmountable despite an early poll that placed Martin within range of victory.
Racial politics again
Though the Republicans sought to downplay the racial question, Governor Wallace kept the issue alive when he signed state legislation to nullify desegregation guidelines between Alabama cities and counties and the former United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Wallace claimed that the law would thwart the national government from intervening in schools. Critics denounced Wallace's "political trickery" and expressed alarm at the potential forfeiture of federal funds. Martin accused the Democrats of "playing politics with your children" and "neglecting academic excellence."
Martin also opposed the desegregation guidelines and had sponsored a House amendment to forbid the placement of students and teachers on the basis of racial quotas. He predicted that Wallace's legislation would propel the issuance of a court order compelling immediate and total desegregaton in all public schools. Martin compared the new law to "another two-and-a-half minute stand in the schoolhouse door while the whole state suffers," referring to Wallace's 1963 stance at the University of Alabama.
George Wallace, who did the majority of the campaigning for his wife, blasted the Eisenhower-Nixon administration in regard to the 1957 desegregation showdown in Little Rock. Martin discussed political developments with Eisenhower at the former president's farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and reported that Eisenhower told him that troops were dispatched after the Democratic mayor of Little Rock, Woodrow Wilson Mann, voiced fear of an insurrection. Martin said that Eisenhower "had no alternative but to send in troops."
Martin urged that President Lyndon B. Johnson remove national education commissioner Harold Howe II, and proposed that Wallace and Alabama Education Superintendent Austin R. Meadows travel to Washington to challenge the guidelines in a bipartisan fashion. Meadows retorted to Martin to "let Jacob Javits handle it," a reference to the New York liberal Republican U.S. senator. Wallace's anti-guidelines law was subsequently struck down, and Alabama was placed under a federal court order to abolish its dual school system.
Journalist Pat Watters contended that Wallace's actions inadvertently compelled the national government to "act and did more to advance Negro causes than the most fervent civil rights advocate" could have realized. Syndicated columnist Holmes Alexander observed Wallace greeting a black family in a restaurant, a gesture which at that time most other southern politicians would have avoided.
Running against two Wallaces
Martin proclaimed that Lurleen Wallace was a "proxy" candidate, a manifestation of her husband's "insatiable appetite for power." Mrs. Wallace used the slogan "Two Governors, One Cause" and proclaimed the words Alabama and freedom to be synonyms. Martin bemoaned having to campaign against a woman, a position that would soon become anachronistic. Though he was running for state office, Martin focused much attention on President Johnson, unpopular with many in Alabama because of the Vietnam War, inflation and urban unrest. "We want to see this war ended, and it's going to take a change of administration to do it," Martin said. At the state level, Martin questioned a $500,000 school book depository contract awarded to Wallace supporter Elton B. Stephens of Ebsco Investment Company. Martin challenged "secret deals" regarding the construction of highways or schools" and "conspiracies between the state house and the White House."
At her general election campaign kickoff in Birmingham, Lurleen Wallace pledged "progress without compromise" and "accomplishment without surrender ... George will continue to speak up and stand up for Alabama." She continued: "Contrary to what the liberals preach, progress can be made without sacrificing the free enterprise system and ... the Constitution." It was during this 1966 campaign that Wallace coined his line: "There's not a dime's worth of difference" between the two national parties. Wallace likened such Republicans as the then House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford, Jr., later the president from 1974 to 1977, and Chief Justice Earl Warren, who supported civil rights legislation, to "vultures" who presided over the destruction of the U.S. Constitution.
In plugging for two-party politics, Martin claimed that the only way to unseat President Johnson was for Alabama and the South to become "strongly conservative Republican states." One of Martin's slogans read: "Beat LBJ the Jim Martin Way." Wallace's memoirs merely mention Martin as "the strongest Republican candidate in many years." The Wallaces had little need to campaign, as hardly anyone could out-fox Wallace in the then "popular sport of LBJ-cussin'".
Martin did not receive all of the anti-Wallace vote by default. Some liberals coalesced behind the Independent candidate Carl Ray Robinson, a physician and lawyer from Bessemer. Robinson claimed that Wallace had so perverted the Democratic label that Martin, rather than James B. Allen, could be the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee. Robinson filed a $5 million slander suit against Martin after the Republican alleged that Wallace was subsidizing the Robinson campaign in order to split the opposition. Martin dismissed the suit as "something the Democrats have cooked up" and questioned how it could be slanderous to say that "one Democrat supports another."
Former Senator Barry Goldwater and sitting Senator Strom Thurmond campaigned on behalf of Martin and Senate candidate John Grenier. Thurmond, who had carried Alabama in 1948 as the nominee of the Dixiecrats, addressed an all-white GOP state convention, where he denounced the national Democratic leadership as "the most dangerous people in the country" and urged a "return to constitutional government." George Wallace was so irritated over Goldwater's appearance on Martin's behalf that he questioned why Goldwater could win only six states in his 1964 race against Johnson. "Where were the Republicans when I was fighting LBJ?" Wallace asked. Goldwater shunned personal criticism of Wallace but repudiated Wallace's talk of a third party in the 1968 presidential election.
The split with John Grenier
Jim Martin and John Grenier initially planned a Goldwater-style campaign, but when polls showed certain victory for Lurleen Wallace, Grenier tried to steer independently of Martin. He spoke warmly of the Wallaces and urged conservative Democrats to reject Senator Sparkman's reelection bid: "there are deep differences between John Sparkman and George Wallace." Sparkman's hometown daily, The Huntsville Times, questioned Grenier's attempt to attach himself to the Wallace coattails" even while Grenier affirmed backing for Martin. Grenier's attempt to court Wallace voters drew the private outrage of Martin. The liberal Republican Ripon Society termed the Grenier campaign "an echo of Democratic racism." The tensions between Martin and Grenier accelerated. When Martin leaders asked to switch races again with Grenier, the Senate nominee flatly refused.
Perry O. Hooper, Sr., a former probate and circuit judge from Montgomery and later the first Republican elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, reflected on the Martin-Grenier rivalry, having noted that Martin defeated Grenier in 1968 in a race for Republican national committeeman, a position that Hooper himself subsequently held:
The year 1966 was a disaster...nobody could imagine a governor's wife running for office and winning. I began to realize it in January, but nobody else seemed to understand. Once we made that mistake, it was all downhill [for Republicans]. It was felt that if we were going to really build a party we needed a governor, and Jim Martin was a hot item. He wanted to switch over to the senatorial nomination, but he wouldn't take a leadership position and let it be known.... He hoped the convention would take over, but John Grenier was too well organized to make the switch. Neither Martin nor Grenier has ever gotten over the 1966 races. Martin ran against Grenier to serve on the national committee in 1968 and blew him away. Hopefully, a lot of these things are in the past. All we can do is learn from 1966.
Despite the odds against him, Martin campaigned to the finish, buoyed by seven newspaper endorsements and a straw poll at Auburn University. Four days before the election, Martin's "Victory Special" whistle-stop tour, conceived by the candidate's 83-year-old father, began in Mobile and rolled northward through nearly fifty towns and cities in thirty-two counties. A few candidates joined Martin, but there was no united effort, and the national GOP declined to give Martin financial assistance. Martin called the Wallace administration the "Little Society," a play on President Johnson's Great Society social programs. He even equated 1960s Republicanism to the philosophy of Jefferson Davis, who in 1861 had assumed the Confederate presidency in Montgomery.
1966 election results
Ultimately, Martin and Grenier each carried only one county, Winston County, where many were descendants of nonslaveholders who had remained loyal to the Union in the Civil War. Martin also polled a six-vote plurality in Greene County. His 262,943 votes (31 percent) were less than half of Lurleen Wallace's 537,505 ballots (63.4 percent). Robinson received 47,655 votes (5.6 percent). Grenier ran eight percentage points ahead of Martin because he received 50,075 more votes, and 45,503 fewer ballots were cast in the Senate race than in the gubernatorial contest. The Montgomery Advertiser summed up the results: the flimsy house that Barry [Goldwater] built collapsed, except for a few boards here and there.... The Republicans have little more than the bare foundation of a party." However, three incumbent Republican congressmen, Jack Edwards, William Dickinson, and John Buchanan, survived their party's 1966 statewide defeat. The Democrat William Flynt Nichols handily unseated Republican U.S. Representative Glenn Andrews, and Martin's 7th District House seat also returned to Democratic hands with the victory of Tom Bevill. The four seats in the Alabama House of Representatives held by Tandy Little, Alfred Goldthwaite of Montgomery (who had switched parties in 1964), Donald Lamar Collins, and John Andrew Posey, Jr. (born 1923) of Winston County, were all lost in the Democratic tide in 1966.
Neither Martin nor Lurleen Wallace had specifically solicited African American support, and the black leadership took no position on the race. The Huntsville Times determined that Mrs. Wallace polled a majority in predominantly black precincts in Anniston, Birmingham, and the Black Belt. Numan V. Bartley and Hugh D. Graham concluded that she received 65 percent in black majority precincts in Montgomery, where Martin and Robinson trailed with 23 and 13 percent. In black majority precincts in Birmingham, Mrs. Wallace took only 31 percent, whereas Martin and Robinson polled 35 and 34 percent, respectively. Sparkman easily carried those same precincts with more than 80 percent of the ballots over John Grenier. Martin ran ahead of Grenier among wealthier and white collar whites but lagged behind his ticket-mate with blue collar and lower-middle-income voters. Upper-class whites were the single demographic group that supported Martin, with a 53 percent majority. Grenier polled 46 percent from that same bloc.
In 1968, Martin defeated Grenier in an intra-party contest for Republican National Committeeman from Alabama.
1972 Senate race
Six years after his gubernatorial defeat, Jim Martin announced he would seek the Republican nomination to challenge Senator John Sparkman, as he had considered in 1966. The GOP choice, however, fell on Winton M. Blount, a wealthy contractor from Montgomery who had been the last Postmaster General, serving under President Nixon, before the post was removed from the Cabinet. Perry Hooper recalled that Martin was not opposed to Blount but merely wanted to run against Sparkman himself. In the first GOP statewide primary, Blount defeated Martin, 27,736 to 16,800, and 6,674 for two other candidates. Martin carried fifteen counties in the primary; 30 percent of the ballots were cast in Jefferson County alone. A third candidate who fell far behind in the tabulation was State Representative Bert Nettles of Mobile, who carried the endorsement of The Tuscaloosa News. Nettles was the author of the legislation that authorized this first ever taxpayer-funded Republican primary in Alabama history.
Blount was handily defeated by Sparkman in the fall of 1972; so long as George Wallace remained the dominant political power in Alabama, particularly after the ban on consecutive gubernatorial reelection was lifted in 1974, the GOP faced few prospects of a breakthrough.
The 1978 Senate campaign
In 1978, Martin again announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. He first intended to challenge the Democratic nominee Howell T. Heflin of Tuscumbia, a nephew of the legendary white supremacist Tom Heflin. Howell Heflin won the Democratic nomination to succeed the finally retiring John Sparkman by defeating U.S. Representative Walter Flowers, a long-time George Wallace ally. However, Martin switched to a second Senate race for a two-year term created by the death of Senator James Allen. Allen's widow, Maryon Pittman Allen, lost the Democratic nomination for the remaining two years of her husband's term to State Sen. Donald W. Stewart of Anniston, a favorite of organized labor. Martin therefore would face Stewart in the November general election. For the change to occur, George W. Nichols, who had handily defeated Elvin McCary of Anniston in the special senatorial primary, had to step down from the nomination. Martin's change in races recalled his own belated attempt in 1966 to switch positions with John Grenier. He did not expect the change in Senate races to be an issue in 1978 because Stewart himself had first announced for the six-year term and then switched to the two-year vacancy.
Democratic State Chairman George Bailes of Birmingham belittled "Switchback Martin" for a "flim-flam on the electorate." Howell Heflin himself ridiculed Martin as the "Harold Stassen of Alabama," a reference to the former governor of Minnesota who for years pursued a vain quest for the Republican presidential nomination. A large number of prominent Republicans came to Alabama to support Martin, including former President Ford, future presidents Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, U.S. Representative Jack Kemp, and senators Goldwater, Robert J. Dole of Kansas, Harrison Schmitt of New Mexico, and S.I. Hayakawa of California. Martin benefited from the change in races because he could legally receive contributions for both the six-year and the two-year contests. The national GOP, which had spurned him financially in 1966, filled his coffers in 1978 with $230,000.
Stewart criticized Martin's use of surrogate speakers, but he brought in U.S. Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana and the actor Gregory Peck. He challenged Martin's attendance record in the House in 1965 and 1966, when he was often in Alabama tending to political chores. With considerable effectiveness, Stewart said that Martin "had done nothing but run for office, and he did not stay there and represent the people the one time he was in office." Stewart further claimed that Martin had misapplied the "liberal" label in politics, having used it not only against Stewart but to hammer Lurleen Wallace in 1966 and even fellow Republican Winton Blount in 1972. Blount still donated $4,000 to the 1978 Martin campaign.
Martin questioned Stewart's position on the right-to-work provision of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Stewart insisted that his pro-labor record did not include opposition to right-to-work. Working against Stewart was the disclosure that he had undergone treatment for a "nervous breakdown" in 1958, when he was eighteen years old. That issue reappeared in 1980, when Stewart lost renomination to James Folsom, Jr., a future lieutenant governor and governor.
Martin finished the race with 316,170 votes (44 percent) to Stewart's 401,852 (56 percent). The Republican won seven counties: Winston, Montgomery, Baldwin, Houston, Shelby, Cullman, and Mobile. Martin lost populous Jefferson County by twenty-seven votes.
Martin in retrospect
Throughout his political career, Martin had continued to work in the petroleum industry. In 1987, Guy Hunt, the first Republican governor of Alabama since Reconstruction, appointed Martin commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, a position which he held until Hunt was forced from office in 1993.
Journalist Ray Jenkins of the Montgomery Advertiser recalled Martin as having been
in the vanguard of what promised to be a period of profound political change. Then something dreadful happened to the Republicans on the way to 1966. They picked a fight with George Wallace. The bubble burst and once again the Republicans were relegated to their humble status as a mere facade of patronage....Martin came out of political isolation [in 1978] to spread the faith yet once again, even though the odds were clearly against him.... When told by friends he should become a Democrat, Martin said "If ever there is to be a healthy two-party system in Alabama, someone must keep the faith, someone must keep principle above self interest."...
Perry Hooper, however, disputes Jenkins' analysis. The retired judge said that Wallace may have inadvertently aided the Republican Party by fostering opposition to the national Democrats within Alabama. Hooper said that he had, despite their partisan difference, "always gotten along quite well" with Wallace, whom he remembers as "a southern gentleman who likes people, and it shows." To Hooper, the difficulty of establishing the two-party system came from within the Republican Party itself. Jim Martin, he said, was the party's "finest candidate" but "time just slipped by, and it's difficult to overcome problems like we had in 1966."
Martin last ran as a candidate in 1994, when at the age of seventy-six he failed in a Republican bid for state treasurer. Soon he was involved in a suit with Perry Hooper so that the jurist could claim the Chief Justice position to which he was elected that same year.
The James D. Martin Wildlife Park at U.S. Highway 411 in Gadsden is named in his honor.
Martin died at his home in Gadsden, Alabama on October 30, 2017, aged 99.
- James Douglas Martin
- United States Congress. "James D. Martin (id: M000182)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- The Political Graveyard
|Party political offices|
Title last held byJohn A. Posey
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Alabama
Perry O. Hooper Sr.
Title last held byWilliam Longshore
| Republican nominee for Governor of Alabama
Title next held byElvin McCary
Title last held byPerry O. Hooper Sr.
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Alabama
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 7th congressional district
January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1967
John S. Wold
| Oldest Living United States Representative(Sitting or Former)
February 19, 2017 – October 30, 2017
Lester L. Wolff
Alabama's delegation(s) to the 89th United States Congress (ordered by seniority)
|89th||Senate: J. L. Hill • J. Sparkman||House: G. W. Andrews • R. Jones • A. Selden • A. G. Andrews • J. Buchanan • W. Dickinson • J. Edwards • J. Martin|