Louis Martin was 23 years old when he arrived in Detroit on June 6, 1936 as editor and publisher of the newly minted Detroit Chronicle (later the Michigan Chronicle). As he recounted in a July 17, 1976 article, he had to learn fast how to build a newspaper, and trust his own judgment as there were no books on how to do it.
“I learned early that while straight newspaper reporters are hard to find, if you scratch a lawyer or a preacher hard enough, you will find a journalist,” Martin wrote.
He also said the paper was “lucky enough” to make “the right friends and the right enemies. The latter were often just as helpful as the former.”
Martin, who began as a Chicago Defender reporter, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1934. When he took over the reins of the Chronicle, he had a one-room office, a $20 a week salary and total business capital of $17.
Martin, who got the Chronicle involved in the labor movement, also became involved in politics. In 1944, he became assistant publicity director of the Democratic National Committee during president Roosevelt’s re-election campaign. His experience in politics wouldn’t end there.
In 1960, Sargent Shriver recruited him to assist in John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Martin was influential in helping Kennedy get elected, and became a close advisor.
He would subsequently become a friend and advisor to President Johnson on civil rights and initiated a program of having Johnson meet with NNPA editors and publishers at least twice a year.
He also served as a senior advisor to President Carter.
Prior to the Carter presidency, in 1970, Martin founded the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, to provide technical assistance, research and support for Black officials across the country. Today, it remains the only African American think tank in the nation.
Louis Martin, who was enshrined in the NNPA Hall of Fame in 2006, was called the “godfather of Black politics.”