John Bartlow Martin

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John Bartlow Martin (Hamilton, Ohio, 4 August 1915 – Highland Park, Illinois, 3 January 1987) was an American diplomat, author of 15 books, ambassador, and speechwriter and confidant to many Democratic politicians including Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Hubert Humphrey.[1]

Early life[edit]

Martin was born in Hamilton, Ohio to John, a carpenter and contractor, and Laura Bartlow Martin, and as a young child moved to Indianapolis. Martin grew up in an unhappy childhood, plagued by the death of his two brothers. He graduated from high school at age 16 and was expelled in his first year from DePauw University, but he later graduated there with a degree in journalism.


With the impact of his dark childhood and onset of the Great Depression, Martin's early journalism career focused on deep concern for the underprivileged and forgotten, such as criminals, the impoverished, the working class, and the mentally ill. His work appeared in such publications as Saturday Evening Post, LIFE, Colliers, Atlantic Monthly, and Harper's. He won the highest magazine writing honor, the Benjamin Franklin Magazine Award, for four consecutive years.[2]

Political career[edit]

Martin was hired in 1952 as a speechwriter by Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, and later worked on the Kennedy presidential campaign. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic from 1962 to 1964. Martin arrived shortly after the assassination of the dictaor, Rafael Trujillo. He became very close with the new president, Juan Bosch. Martin resigned shortly after the Kennedy assassination, but he returned to the Dominican Republic as a special envoy in 1965 during the invasion dispatched by Johnson.

Death and legacy[edit]

He died in Highland Park, Illinois in 1987 of throat cancer.

In 2008, The Library of America selected his story "Butcher's Dozen" for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Adlai Stevenson of Illinois (828 pages), Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY, 1976.
  • Adlai Stevenson and the World (946 pages), Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY, 1977.
  • Break Down the Walls (310 pages), Ballantine Books, New York, NY, 1954 ; an account of the 1952 riots in the State Prison of Southern Michigan at Jackson


  1. ^ Ray E. Boomhower, ;;John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog (Indiana University Press, 2015).
  2. ^ The Press: The Fact Finder, TIME, 12 May 1958

Further reading[edit]

  • Boomhower, Ray E. John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog (Indiana University Press, 2015) xviii, 386 pp.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Vinton Chapin
United States Ambassador to the Dominican Republic
Succeeded by
W. Tapley Bennett, Jr.