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Inland Pioneer Sam Martin Remembered

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Martin helped co-found Black Voice News, Precinct Reporter and American News

By Cheryl Brown –

The life of Samuel Martin Sr. will be remembered by family and friends at a service on Saturday, February 11, at the Arlington Mortuary in Riverside, CA. Martin was the 2nd of 20 children born to Will and Mary Martin on September 10, 1924 in Edwards, Mississippi.

He enlisted in the U.S Army in 1944. On November 12, 1946 he married Willie Mae (Wilbourn) Martin (deceased), they had four children.

Mr. Martin moved to Needles, CA in the 40’s and became involved in the NAACP and veteran’s issues before moving to San Bernardino with his family in 1954.

He was employed at Norton Air Force Base and Santa Fe Railroad. He became a Reserve Deputy Sheriff for the County of San Bernardino because he was concerned about law and order in the neighborhoods and keeping crime off the streets. He carried a gun and a badge and worked closely with Sheriff Bland.

Martin was involved in the community and remembering the inadequacies of his native state, felt everyone should have an equal opportunity. His community involvement led him to help with the fight for the right of minorities to have the privilege to vote. He was one of the pioneers in support of integration in fair housing and fought for integration of veterans housing in Needles, during the 1950s. Martin was interested in government and city elections and also had an active share in the state and federal elections. He and Art Townsend also founded the first Democratic Club in the Black community.

Martin had an early retirement from Norton Air Force Base which gave him the opportunity to be even more involved in the political arena and concerned with the minorities and African Americans exercising their right to vote. He established the local Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), founding the APRI (A. Philip Randolph Institute), and became the first African American to be elected to the Democratic Central Committee in 1962. He then was appointed Precinct Captain of the 5th precinct of the Democratic Party to encourage more people to go to the polls and vote. Martin and James Ford, another activist, worked together to encourage voting in the 5th precinct, having residents report to the Precinct Captain.

When Martin connected with the late Fontana activist Jesse Turner, she was publishing a mimeographed newsletter to the community.

Martin began following her lead and mimeographed reports to the paper. When Bob Holcomb was fighting the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) taking over the San Bernardino water rights, he heard about Martin’s mimeograph machine and asked him to print 40,000 fliers and distribute them in the Inland Empire. The strategy worked and San Bernardino has ownership today of their own water.

From this fight Samuel Martin and Arthur P. Townsend founded the “Precinct Reporter” newspaper.

The reporting to the precinct was how Martin came up with the name.

Samuel Martin and his wife, Willie Mae, founded the San Bernardino American News on May 8, 1969 and it became legally adjudicated on September 28, 1971. He was the first newspaper in the state to become certified by the California Public Utilities Commission.

When the Hispanic community wanted to start a newspaper, they turned to Martin for help.

Additionally when the students of the University of California Riverside felt they needed a voice on campus it was Martin who helped. The Black Voice News was established in 1972 in association with the Black Student Union (BSU). The BSU felt the need for a “voice” from the African-American community and the UCR college campus. Sam Martin continued his support by publishing the Black Voice newspaper with the assistance of Ardess Lilly and the BSU, until they graduated. It was legally adjudicated in 1974 and he continued with the help of Hardy and Cheryl Brown to publish until they took over ownership in 1980.

Sam Martin retired from daily operations in 2001 and his daughter Mary Harris and son-in-law Clifton Harris are now the publishers of the San Bernardino American News.

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