James Martin, Who Spurred G.O.P. Gains in the South, Dies at 99

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James Douglas Martin was born on Sept. 1. 1918, in Tarrant City, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham. His father, Richard, was a railroad engineer. His mother, the former Mary Graham, was a teacher. Young James’s school was a converted log cabin with an outdoor toilet.

He attended Massey Business College in Birmingham and the Birmingham School of Law before enlisting in the Army during World War II. He commanded an artillery battery in Europe, was discharged as a major and returned to work as an oil distributor.

Mr. Martin’s wife, the former Patricia Huddleston, who in 1955 was Miss Alabama, survives him, as do their children, James Jr., Richard and Annette Graham Martin; five grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

A convert to the Republican Party in 1952, Mr. Martin, a decade later, aggressively challenged J. Lister Hill, a four-term Democrat, in a blistering campaign for the Senate two years after another Democrat, John F. Kennedy, had been elected president.

Calling on Alabamians to “return to the spirit of ’61 — 1861,” Mr. Martin capitalized on a white backlash against the Kennedy administration’s school integration mandate and what he called an invasion of federal troops to enforce it.

But he lost, barely, by only 6,000 votes of nearly 400,000 cast.

Two years later, he received 60 percent of the vote to defeat George C. Hawkins, a Democratic state senator, for Congress in what was then the Seventh District, including Huntsville. He had received 43 percent in the district in the 1962 Senate race.

But challenging both Wallaces in 1966 proved too formidable. Mrs. Wallace’s unvarnished slogan, “Two Governors, One Cause,” reverberated among the state’s Wallace loyalists. Mr. Martin was defeated, 63 to 31 percent. He also lost Senate races in 1974 and 1978.

In 1987, under Gov. Tom Hunt, a Republican, Mr. Martin was named state commissioner of conservation and natural resources. Expanding offshore drilling, he invested oil and gas revenue to buy land for public recreation.

His death leaves 98-year-old Lester L. Wolff, who represented Long Island in Congress until 1981, as the oldest living House veteran.

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Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

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