Judge Martin was born July 15, 1938, only child of Wm. C. Martin, Jr., and Frankie Judith Farmer Martin, who predeceased him. He was a native of Longview with deep roots in this country. His avid interest in his and his wife’s family histories led him to a nationwide acquaintance and correspondence with their cousins. He knew of his descent from many European nations over a four hundred year period and his families’ connections with many tribes of Native Americans. He was deeply sympathetic to anyone wishing to immigrate here seeking citizenship.
He was the first National Merit Scholar to graduate from Longview High School (1957) and a George F. Baker Scholar to Davidson College in North Carolina. He graduated with honors cum laude in American and English Constitutional History in Davidson’s class of 1961 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He and Janet Marie Geist of Cleveland and Piqua, Ohio, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, married on June 3, 1961, and she supported him through law school in twenty-seven months.
After obtaining his LL.B. (Juris. Doctor) degree from the University of Texas at Austin, William fulfilled his Army of the United States commission as an Infantry officer, qualifying as a parachutist and receiving the Army Commendation Medal. The couple returned to Longview, where he practiced law solo and with Tom DeWitt and with Ewing Adams and Gillett Sheppard. During this period, he continued to serve in the Texas National Guard. He participated in forming the 71st Infantry Brigade (ABN), serving as a battalion staff officer and one of the unit’s first static line jumpmasters until his discharge in May of 1971.
In 1970, William announced for nomination as judge of the Court of Domestic Relations for Gregg County by the Republican Party. With a great deal of help from his friends and family, he won the November election and was the first Gregg County official ever elected on the Republican ticket, taking office as judge of the Court of Domestic Relations for Gregg County on January 1, 1971, and serving continuously in that office and as judge of the Family District Court for the 307th Judicial District through five elections until he retired from office on December 31, 1990.
He was particularly proud of his service in the Court of Domestic Relations before the Court conversion statute, during which he and his secretary, Margaret Kuhn (who became his court reporter), handled all of the Gregg County litigation under the Texas Family Code and the laws it replaced, only a fraction of which, including jury trials involving children, could be statistically reported in the state system. During that time, the Court did not have a court reporter, and much of the time court room space had to be borrowed from the other courts or arranged in the Presbyterian Church or the bank across the street from the Courthouse. A bailiff was hired only after his handgun was discovered hanging under the usual bench he used. The work of that Court is now spread among three fully staffed and funded courts and a state funded hearing officer.
William helped establish the state bar specialty in family law as a grader for the first examination, then helped construct the second exam, then took the third exam himself. He served on the Council of the Family Law Section during the time when Texas family law was being codified and its practice standardized, drafting legislation and producing forms in committee. He was a part of the Juvenile Court Judges Committee working toward establishment of the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and served as one of the first board of commissioners. When he took office, child offenders were still being detained in the county jail. He continually confronted the community with the shame of this situation and the first modern detention facility opened in 1979.
Following retirement, William continued to sit on assignment as a visiting judge specializing in Family Law through the First Administrative Judicial Region for nine years in the family courts in Dallas. After 2000, he served in the several counties of the North East Texas Foster Care Docket, hearing cases filed for Child Protective Services division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in order to meet federal time standards without interfering with civil and criminal dockets. William left the judiciary at the end of 2010 with forty years of service and practiced family law for the remainder of his fifty years as an attorney at law.
William served his congregation and presbytery as an elder and commissioner to church courts. He was a member of Masonic Lodge 404, the Gregg County Scottish Rite Club and the Waco Scottish Rite bodies. He loved to make and repair fire arms, participated in hunting and the shooting sports and made Damascus steel cutlery at the various forge facilities he set up.
Judge Martin is survived by his wife Janet, their daughter Melissa Marie Martin of Redmond, Washington, with her children Alexander William and Sydney Grace, and their son Charles William Martin of Hill County, his Wife Christial with his children Charles Garrett and Charla Richelle (Mrs. Jordan T. Brown), Philip Blake Johnson, and two great-grandchildren Colt and Nash Brown.
“. . . what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
A memorial guestbook may be signed online at www.raderfh.com.