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.
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
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?
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
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?
I must admit ignorance in this matter. I'm not familiar with how they
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?
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
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
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
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
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?
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?
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.
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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?
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
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.