Businessman, Scholar, Innovator
Thomas Wesley Martin was born near Scottsboro, Alabama. He was the son of
Judge William L. Martin and his wife, the former Margaret Ledbetter. Martin
is remembered best for his presidency of the Alabama Power Company. He was a
practical businessman, humanitarian and scholar. He loved the South and his
When he was a young boy he moved with his family to Montgomery where he attended Starkes School, then law classes at the University of Alabama. He practiced law with his father, then for eight years served as Assistant Attorney General of the State of Alabama. He rejoined his father's law firm in 1907 which became Tyson, Wilson and Martin after his father's death. Following his service to Alabama Power as legal counsel, he was appointed president of the company in 1925. He served as president of Alabama Power until 1964 when he died at eighty-three years of age.
Mr. Martin steered the Power Company through many crises. One of the more prominent of these were the "mosquito suits" filed against the company by 1100 property owners. They charged that the building of the first large power dam caused a multiplication in the number of mosquitos. Convinced that the dam was in the public interest, Mr. Martin went to Washington and secured the assistance of Maj. Gen. William Crawford Gorgas, an Alabamian who was then the Surgeon General of the United States. He won the first "mosquito" suit and the other suits were dropped.
Martin's leadership brought about the rural electrification of Alabama. It has been said that he "turned the lights on over Alabama." He received the Edison Electric Institute Rural Electrification Award and was voted the South's Man of the Year.
Other important services to his state include: Helping to organize the Alabama Chamber of Commerce, organizing the Southern Research Institute, one of the most notable organizations in the country. He established a 32 Million Dollar newsprint plant at Childersburg. He chaired the Talladega Co. War Plants Conversion Committee. He experimented on company property to test the feasibility of the gasification of coal. He headed the southeastern Power and Light Company where he was key in integrating the power systems throughout the area. He organized the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park and saw to the representation of William Crawford Gorgas in the National Hall of Fame. He also saw to the placing of relics of the Vine and Olive Colony in the State Archives.
Forbes Magazine published Mr. Martin's name among America's Fifty Foremost Business Leaders. His portrait was carried on the cover of this and other leading magazines. "...he has won the friendly cooperation of consumers and has uniquely promoted Southern prosperity." He died in Birmingham on December 8, 1964.
Thomas Wesley Martin was inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame in 1988.