James Martin, 1944-2009, was head baseball coach at Tuskegee Institute, now known as Tuskegee University from 1971-1982 and from 1984-1988.
Martin was honored as the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Baseball Coach of the Year ten times during his fifteen year baseball coaching career. Between 1976 and 1980, Coach Martin had a .750 winning percentage, winning over 200 games in his first ten years as the head baseball coach. During this decade, Martin doubled as the Assistant Head Coach of the Tuskegee football team. He would later become Head Coach of the football program and Director of Athletics at Tuskegee. Additionally, Martin served as Director of Athletics at South Carolina State University, Long Island University and his Alma Mater, Alabama A & M University.
Coach Martin, known as “Big Jim” to his friends, was the consummate recruiter; he often credited his success to “good recruiting and administrative support for the team.”
While at Tuskegee, Martin took eight of his fifteen teams to NCAA Division II Regional Tournaments. He organized an SIAC All-Star game in 1973. His team was the conference champions that year, so they competed against the conference All-Stars in Atlanta, Georgia, winning the game 2-1.
He was selected as Team Leader for the Division II, NCAA All-American Baseball Team in Mexico City in 1978.
In 1979, Coach Martin created the National Baseball Tournament in order to showcase black college baseball players to Major League Baseball. The three day tournament was hosted on the campus of Tuskegee Institute and at Veterans Field on the grounds of the Tuskegee, Alabama Veterans Hospital, in 1979 and 1980. The tournament invited the top black college programs in the nation and drew participation from many of the professional baseball teams.
During his tenure as coach, Martin sent nine players to major league baseball. Among them were Richard “Buck” Shaw, Roy Lee Jackson, Howard Carter, Ken Howell and Alan Mills.
Also, he coached former New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, former Grambling State University President, Willie D. Larkins, as well, this writer.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round, Easier to obtain Than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights by Charles Steele, Jr.; and the host of Beyond the Law with Harold Michael Harvey. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.