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Roy Butler Martin, Jr., a Norfolk native, was mayor of Norfolk from 1962-1974. He served as a member of the City Council for over 20 years, beginning 1953. He attended the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary from 1939-1940. The interview discusses his views on the early days of ODU and its growth and development through the 1960s, the Byrd Organization, massive resistance and his lone vote against cutting off funds from the black secondary schools in January 1959, and urban renewal and development.

Oral History Interview
with
MAYOR ROY B. MARTIN, JR.

Norfolk, Virginia
July 18, 1974
by James R. Sweeney, Old Dominion University

Listen to RealAudio Interview Listen to Interview

Sweeney: We are pleased to have for our interview subject today a former student of Old Dominion College when it was the Norfolk Division of William and Mary, and now the mayor of the City of Norfolk, Roy Martin.

I'd like to ask you first, Mayor Martin, just one question about your student days. When you attended the William and Mary Division back in the late 1930's, did it seem to fulfill your needs as an educational institution at that time?

Martin: Yes. I graduated from Maury High School in June of 1939, and my parents wanted me, of course, and I likewise wanted to go to college, but they felt that maybe I was not mature enough or ready to settle down to college life away from home, so I went to the - as we called it at that time - the Division for a year to make certain that I really was interested in higher education. And after a year's time there, I transferred to the University of Virginia.

I look back on my year at the Division as one of accomplishment in the fact that I think that I was able to find myself as far as a student was concerned and, secondly, I enjoyed the comradeship of many people who I had gone to high school with that did like I - went to the Division as an interim step towards some larger school. Because at that time, if I remember correctly, I think the student body of the Division was approximately 400. But I thought it was a very fine institution, but I may have been not looking at it from a point of going right to college because, as I said, so many of those I'd gone to high school with went right to the Division. It was sort of an extension of Maury High School days.

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Sweeney: Did you find in your first years on the City Council that there was a feeling on the Council that the school should become a four-year college? Did the Council do anything about this?

Martin: Yes. I think the City Council was sold on the idea that the Norfolk Division should become a four-year college. I think the records will show that the mayor at that time, Mayor Duckworth, was very interested in it, although he later became a member of the Board of Visitors at William and Mary, and I think possibly had some second thoughts as to whether to spin off the Division from the mother college. But that didn't deter his efforts or the Council's efforts in helping Old Dominion, at least the Division, as it was known at that time, and I would say as a direct answer that yes, the City Council was interested in seeing it become a four-year college - whether as an independent four-year college or connected with William and Mary. They did feel it should be a four-year college.

Sweeney: Did the Council feel in those days that there was a danger that the city might assume too much of a role in dealing with the college ... in other words, that, if the city did so much, the state might just get in the position of feeling that they could put that responsibility more and more on the shoulders of the city?

Martin: Actually, the city had become used to the state not fulfilling its full commitments, as far as we were concerned. I think we realized that the state would assume the major burden. But still, if Old Dominion was to become the school that we hoped it would, it had to have some assistance from the city.

It was for that reason that the city of Norfolk did and has put a vast amount of money into helping the development and growth of the university. And I am fully convinced that Old Dominion would not be the school it is today if it had not been for the city of Norfolk's efforts, which really began when the new library was built - the Hughes Library; when the bids came in, they were about a hundred thousand dollars short because of the necessity of additional piling. The state of Virginia had not appropriated that money, and the college officials came to the city, more or less wringing their hands what to do, and the City Council appropriated the hundred thousand dollars for the piling that made it possible to move ahead with that building since the state would not increase its appropriation for the facility.

Sweeney: There was an organization called the Norfolk Commission on Higher Education in those years. Was it an outgrowth of the interest of the Junior Chamber of Commerce in higher education here?

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Martin: Doctor, I must admit ignorance in this matter. I'm not familiar with how they developed.

Sweeney: There was a proposal back in 1954 that there be a combined city library and college library - that the two be one, and there was a great deal of outcry against this. Do you remember the arguments on City Council about this and the points that were brought up about the bad effect that this would have if there were just one library for both the college and the city?

Martin: Well, I think at that time the library system of the city of Norfolk was very inadequate for the size community that we had. The library board was quite interested in seeing the old library moved and a new building built and extensive branching going about. And I think the idea came around that possibly it would be well to have one library system connected with the college and the city. In reflecting back on it, I don't remember just all of the arguments pro and con, but I think it was very wise in the fact that the two were not merged because certainly they are two separate purposes for which they serve; although I think one should complement the other, I would be very reluctant even today to think that they should be one system.

Sweeney: There was a feeling on the City Council that they should provide for the needs of the university or the college in the future by land acquisition - small parcels of land in that area of 42nd Street up to about 49th Street. It seems that the arrangement was that the city would be reimbursed by the university from the state, but the state didn't reimburse the college very quickly, did they?

Martin: No, as a matter of fact this question came up in Council several weeks ago, and an argument that the city now has, or I hope it's been resolved, with the college concerning Foreman Field.

At that time, a request had been put to the city manager to compile a list of properties that had been purchased by the city and held for the state of Virginia to acquire when and if they needed ... would appropriate the money for the expansion of the university.

We have, of course, done this through the years. Right now, the state of Virginia owes the city of Norfolk over a half a million dollars for land that we are holding. This has all been held

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in lieu of interest. There has been no interest paid on the moneys that have been involved in holding this property - some of it for years. Beyond that, of course, the city has lost the tax revenue from the properties that have been acquired.

But, again, I would not change my posture in it. I think it has been good for the university, and I am convinced that, if the city of Norfolk had not taken this approach, although it costs the taxpayers over the years many, many hundreds of thousands - into the millions of dollars, it still was something I feel we should have done for the education of our young people.

Sweeney: When I first came to Norfolk, I noticed a feeling among many faculty members and people in the community that the Tidewater area in the fifties and sixties had been short-changed by the legislature. Do you think this was because the Byrd organization, which was very strong in the rural areas, dominated the legislature in those days?

Martin: That to a certain degree. As a matter of fact, I think, if you look at it today, your General Assembly is still not rural oriented but we'll say suburban oriented, which is just the same as we had in the past - the core cities, Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke, are still suffering at the hands of the General Assembly due to the fact that that they basically are very conservative in many of their approaches, and such a vast number of the representatives come from the ... either the new cities or the suburban cities that are not interested in what core cities' necessities might be.

I do think you are correct in the fact that Norfolk has always been the liberal spot in the state of Virginia, and I think we didn't enjoy possibly the era of those in higher office that could have been of great benefit, although in those years, in the fifties, we had some very fine representation in the state legislature from Norfolk, probably the strongest team we've ever had, because they did work together as a team.

Sweeney: In 1963 you and Mayor Duckworth were - or ex-Mayor Duckworth at that time - were on a committee which announced plans to raise funds for a $950,000 American history building for Old Dominion College through the MacArthur Memorial Foundation. What ever happened to that project?

Martin: The project really never got off the ground as we had hoped. The MacArthur Foundation has raised a considerable amount of money, and, as you probably know, it just in the last year has begun to give scholarships on the history predicated on

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various criteria brought about by essays on the General. Hopefully, this history building is not completely dead. I would think that conversations with General Anderson, who is now director of the MacArthur Foundation, would lead you to understand that there are still great hopes that this can in some way be brought about. I think that this is the best way that the MacArthur name can be perpetuated would be through a school of history.

Sweeney: Was there ever a possibility that the medical school in Norfolk would be located either at Old Dominion or be a part of Old Dominion?

Martin: Yes, I think it ... from the very beginning it had been hoped that the medical college and Old Dominion could work together. I don't believe that there was ever any consideration for it to be a direct affiliate or a subdivision of Old Dominion, by virtue of the fact that the college should be near the hospital the medical college should be near the hospital and interwoven with their operations.

But I do know that in the years gone past there was hope that a lot of the pre-med courses and so forth could be possibly handled through Old Dominion University.

Sweeney: Just what was and is the arrangement between the city and the school in respect to Foreman Field?

Martin: The city of Norfolk had a contract with the university for the use of Foreman Field. That contract was canceled by the college this year and caused quite a bit of concern in city hall for the simple reason that we feel that we are obligated to the Shriners for the Oyster Bowl, for example, until 1980. We are in the process - when I say we are in the process right now of starting another stadium out by Metropolitan Park, whether it will be a stadium just to handle high school football or whether it will be expanded to handle college and professional will depend upon the demand. But, in talking with Frank Crenshaw, the rector of Old Dominion, it seems that the confusion came about in the fact that, if the contract had not been canceled by the college, it would have automatically renewed itself for 25 years, so now we are on a year-to-year lease with the understanding that the college will allow the use of Foreman Field until 1980.

click to listen to excerpt Sweeney: During the period when the schools were closed, the time of the massive resistance in 1958, did the William and Mary faculty members here make a contribution to the continuation of schooling?

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Martin: They were very trying times and, of course, there were a lot of pros and cons on both sides. I don't remember any definite approach by the college although I am confident that some of the professors, being interested in education, were certainly opposed to what the state had done in closing our high schools.

Sweeney: Not directly connected with the school, but something that you mentioned in class I think we should take down is the vote that you made on the City Council in, I believe it was, January of 1959 when you stood alone against the cutting off of the funds from the black schools in the city. Could you tell that story?

Martin: Well, the state of Virginia in its massive resistance laws -the law said that if any school in the state of Virginia was integrated, the state would then step in and automatically close that school. But, due to the federal suit against the city of Norfolk, the federal courts integrated our white high schools and junior high schools. The state immediately, of course, came in under the power of the state and closed these schools. At that time the Council felt that, if the white schools were to be closed, then the colored schools, the black schools, should be closed. I did not see where we would accomplish anything by pushing more children out of the classroom and making more of a chaotic situation. I took the position and, unfortunately, was the only one that took the position that this was wrong and therefore I voted against the city of Norfolk closing these other schools. The vote was 6 to 1, and the other schools were closed, but fortunately for only a few days because we were pulled - when I say we - the city of Norfolk was pulled into federal courts. And the courts demanded that the schools be reopened and until today the City Council is working under the edict that was put down by that court in that we can only do two things with our school system. Appoint the school board and appropriate funds. After these funds are appropriated, we have no control over or discretion as to how they are spent.

Sweeney: You referred to Mayor Duckworth's opposition to the separation of the school from William and Mary in 1962. Do you feel this was a change of heart on his part and did it surprise many people?

Martin: No. I don't think - I think those who knew Fred Duckworth knew that he was a sound businessman. I think he felt that possibly--and I'm sure that a lot of this was brought about by his close relationship with the mother college, having served on the board at William and Mary, that he felt that it would probably be more economical to keep the school as a separate - I mean, as a division of William and Mary. I don't believe he was very vocal in his stand on it, and certainly did not throw any opposition to the spin-off.

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Sweeney: In 1960 the City Council drafted a resolution which was almost a word-for-word copy of your own statement on the question of restoring state funds to the college's budget when Governor Almond cut the funds by $363,000. When some of these funds were restored, did you think it was due, in part, to the action of the Norfolk City Council?

Martin: We would like to hope that that was the case, but I'm confident that there were a number of other citizens in the community who felt as strongly as we did and joined in our stand. Of course, in those days politics, probably more than today, entered into these various appropriations. I gather that maybe they felt it was politically advantageous for the funds to be restored.

Of course, we speak of $300,000 in those days like we speak of $3,000,000 today, which shows the inflationary trend we've gone through.

Sweeney: I wondered about Old Dominion's part in the urban renewal program. There was an Old Dominion College Urban Renewal Program. How did this relate to urban renewal in the city?

Martin: Well, the Redevelopment and Housing people, particularly Larry Cox, who was the director of Redevelopment and Housing, was aware of the fact that we could go in with a redevelopment program in the blighted area that was close to the college, and we could get this property under the federal program whereby the city of Norfolk would only have to pay equivalent to a third of the cost. The federal government would pay two-thirds. This is the way our redevelopment programs work. So we went into this program with the understanding that the city's third would be paid back by the state when it took over the property, so really our Redevelopment and Housing Authority in the city of Norfolk was used as a vehicle whereby we got the federal government to pay two-thirds of the cost of this land, and ultimately the state paid their third to the city, which the city had advanced, but I might say that it was paid with interest free.

Sweeney: Did you get the impression from your dealings with the school over the years that the administration of Old Dominion was in competent hands?

Martin: Yes. I, of course, didn't have any real connection with the administration other than mainly through President Webb, whom I had known for many years and I think was undoubtedly a great factor in Old Dominion being the school it is today because he was a very fine salesman and sold the community on the needs

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for the school, and he was always there battling for extra dollars and asking for help for extra support to go before the legislature In those groups who would have moneys available for education. I think that from that point I felt the school was in good hands. But, as I said, I did not have any connection into the various departments, just through the President's office.

Sweeney: Do you believe that the Tidewater Police Academy was a great benefit in upgrading the police department in Norfolk?

Martin: Yes. I think this certainly has helped. As a matter of fact, the Police Academy was more or less an outgrowth of the Hampton Roads Area-Wide Committee of Cooperation, which is made up of all of the sister cities in Tidewater and was one of the first accomplishments and probably one of the better accomplishments of this organization in helping to establish a school, which certainly has been beneficial to all of the police departments in Tidewater.

Sweeney: There was established in the mid-sixties an Urban Affairs Department which has now grown into a graduate program in urban studies. Has the city felt any benefit yet from the concentration on urban affairs that is one of the prominent themes of the university?

Martin: I can't pinpoint any direct benefit other than I feel very strongly that with the complexity of city government today that the better trained the city employee, the more efficient government will be made available to the taxpayers. And I am confident that with the school at Old Dominion, people are being graduated who are much better qualified than those of, say a decade ago, to go into public service. And hopefully, many of them are finding employment with the City of Norfolk and with other Tidewater cities.

Sweeney: One of the controversies, apparently, in Norfolk in the late sixties was the effect of Old Dominion's expansion on the neighborhood called Lambert's Point. There were those who feel that it destroyed that neighborhood and that the city didn't do very much to help in those years, according to newspaper clippings I've read. What was your reaction to that?

Martin: Well, I think it's like any other redevelopment program we've gone into. There are those who are going to be hurt. There's no question about it. But, on the other hand, the Council has to take the position which is beneficial to the community,

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not only today but in the years that lie ahead. A strong Old Dominion University or a run-down neighborhood. So through our redevelopment and other programs in all, Lambert's Point - oh, a certain degree of it has been sacrificed to the university, but I don't think we lost a lot because the housing there was substandard and hopefully these people who were moved were relocated in much better housing than they had before and through this would acquire better status or a stronger feeling towards the community and citizenship.

Sweeney: Now that the college has grown up to be a university, at least in the newspaper you don't see as much - as many articles documenting the contact between the City Council and the university. It doesn't seem that the university needs the help of the City Council quite as much as it did in the past. Do you think that the relationship has grown more distant or is still as close as it was, say, 10 or 15 years ago?

Martin: I don't think there's any question but the relationship between the university and the city is not what it was when the college was more dependent upon the city and we had a smaller community than we have today. I don't believe there is the closeness that we had before, and this may be due to the fact that the city is not needed as much by the university. But I know in several instances I have had reports from the city manager's office that have indicated that there's not the personal understanding or feeling between the university and city hall that it used to be. Whether this is a conflict of personalities or not, I don't know. But I do not believe there is the relationship today that existed five or six years ago between the two organizations.

Sweeney: Lastly, quite a bit. We see the development of many apartment houses for students and so forth. Has that area been changed in its zoning to try to improve it and make it more suitable for an academic setting?

Martin: Actually, most of the multiple housing that has gone in there -the apartments and all - has been put into areas that were already zoned for that type of construction. I have felt, and I am not so sure that the planning department is not working right now on it, that a complete look ought to be given to the area east of Hampton Boulevard all the way over to

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Colley, say from 48th Street all the way up to 42nd Street. There's a lot of warehousing and commercial that naturally you don't want to get rid of for tax purposes, plus the fact that they're good structures. But there is other construction in there that possibly, if a look were taken, it could be rezoned - it could be demolished and more substantial buildings put in, and would help to relieve the housing problem - not only for the university student but for many of the younger people and particularly the Navy, which is asking for more housing in and near the Naval Base.

Sweeney: Thank you very much, Mayor Martin. This was a most informative interview, and I enjoyed it very much.

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