Robert A Martin, former editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent died earlier this week after an extended illness. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, four children: Jeff, Jenny, Jamie and Jeremy, and 10 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by parents Calvin Grady Martin and Lou Sellie Box Martin
Martin began his newspaper career with The Florence Times of Florence, Alabama, now known as The Times/Daily, while attending Florence State University, now the University of North Alabama (UNA). As a college student, Martin began in the mail room, worked in circulation and started covering high school football games. He became a sports reporter and eventually sports editor. He continued to advance at The Times ultimately becoming its executive editor.
In 1972 Martin, with family in tow, followed newly elected Chief Justice Howell Heflin to Montgomery where he began a 25-year career with the Administrative Office of the Courts working under Chief Justices Heflin, C.C. “Bo” Torbert, Sonny Hornsby and Perry Hooper, Sr. Martin earned his Juris Doctor from Jones School of Law in 1989.
Throughout his career in both the newspaper business and as director of the courts, Martin became friends with and met many important figures, not the least of which was President John Kennedy. He also wrote many interesting stories about famous people in Alabama and the south. One of those was Buford Pusser, the sheriff depicted in the famous movie Walking Tall. Pusser was the Sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee, not far from Florence.
While at the AOC, Bob played a vital role in passing the Judicial Article, which unified and standardized the public’s interaction with Alabama courts.
After spending 25 years working for the State of Alabama, Martin felt a call to continue his first career, the news business. Martin purchased The Montgomery Independent in March, 1997 and soon after retired from the State of Alabama to dedicate all of his time to the publication.
His primary goal as editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent was to remain dedicated to covering community affairs, especially those events that received little or no attention from other media outlets. Martin’s weekly editorial was syndicated in other newspapers throughout the state and was a regular guest on Alabama Public Television’s For the Record and Capitol Journal. One area of excellence for the newspaper under Martin’s leadership was state government reporting and opinion. Martin worked diligently to provide a variety of commentary related to state issues, which became a hallmark of the newspaper along with its reporting of local society events and the coverage of high school sports.
Bob served as President of the Alabama Press Association (APA) Journalism Foundation in 2008. Felicia Mason, Executive Director of the APA remembers Martin’s service to the foundation.
“Bob has provided sound leadership to APA through his service on the APA Board and as president of the APA Journalism Foundation. His interest in journalism education helped countless students through the grants, internships and scholarships offered through the Foundation. He was a staunch advocate for programs supporting high school journalism and for the Newspapers In Education programs, which provided newspapers to classrooms throughout the state.”
Martin often said he cherished the time he spent with the state and is especially proud of his long, ongoing efforts to improve the justice system in Alabama. “My time with the Courts was very rewarding and exciting, but my first love was always ‘newspapering,”’ Martin said using one of his favorite phrases.