Martin always has a date with Delaware history

DOVER — Happy Delaware Day.

It’s actually Wednesday. But this editor is excited about its significance and the timely start of a new daily feature.

“Today in Delaware History” — compiled by former state senator Roger Martin — kicks off today on Page 56.

You’ll find it daily next to our popular Scenic Delaware photo feature.

Wednesday’s installment, of course, will highlight the day Delaware’s delegates ratified the Constitution.

For Mr. Martin, the date tops a long, long compilation of moments in Delaware history.

“My most favorite is Dec. 7, 1787 — the date Delaware became the First State,” he said.

“You may talk about your big Alaska, you may like to talk about your big Texas or California,” he said. “But, nobody will ever change the fact that little ol’ Delaware is No, 1 and will always be No. 1.”

Mr. Martin has penned several books on Delaware’s history. It was last December that the Delaware Heritage Commission unveiled his updated book, “A History of Delaware through its Governors.”

His interest in the governors started in his hometown of Laurel where a sign touting the town’s five governors had piqued his curiosity.

“I went to find out about them and there was nothing to be found out,” he said. “So I started with that and then compiling information on all the governors.

“The virtue of the governors book is that it’s not only a listing of the governors, but a

Signs for the Golden Fleece mark the spot where Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution on Dec. 7, 1787. (Delaware State News/Andrew West)

Signs for the Golden Fleece mark the spot where Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution on Dec. 7, 1787. (Delaware State News/Andrew West)

chronicling of the events that took place during those administrations that might lead you to believe there’s more to history than just names and dates.”

The collection of the dates that will appear with the daily feature was an effort that he started about 20 years ago when he retired and moved to Middletown.

Reading a book, he was struck by a mention of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ father compiling a list of facts that had taken place in the early part of the country’s history.

“I thought it would be neat to do something like that for Delaware,” said Mr. Martin.

One of the go-to books for Delaware history, he said, did not go far enough.

“I found that it was very much slanted at upstate and it stopped in the 1950s,” he said. “So I thought, let’s bring it up to date and try to bring it statewide.”

In his own lifetime, Mr. Martin has experienced quite a bit of Delaware’s history.

Just after high school, he took the path many in the region did in getting work at the DuPont nylon plant in Seaford before joining the U.S. Army and spending three years in Germany.

His dream, though, had been to become a crooning country singer in the mold of an Eddy Arnold.

“I got into some talent contests and won some of them,” he said. He won a big one in Europe in 1955 and it earned him a tour of France.

He even had an encounter with one of the big names in the business.

From the Editor logo copy copy“I sang for Faron Young one time down in South Carolina,” he said. “I sang him a song I wrote and I never forgot it because he said, ‘That’s the dirtiest thing I ever heard.’”

Compared to today, he said, “It’s nursery rhyme stuff,”

He went back to DuPont after his time in the Army but decided he would use the GI Bill to get an education at the University of Delaware where he majored in political science and German.

In another book that he’s working on, he wants to tell the story of nylon inventor Wallace Carothers.

“He invented something that gave work to people down that way to people who needed money and a job,” Mr. Martin said. “I know from working down there, that provided jobs for people all the way down to Pocomoke to Cambridge to Dover.

“The joke was that if you had a new car down there that people would say, ‘You must work for Uncle DuPee.’

“In my own case when I came back from the Army and my service continued with the DuPont

Roger Martin

Roger Martin

Co., my mom said you better think about this, leaving this job and going to the university. You’re making a $1.54 an hour and that’s good money.

“I never had a regret about that.”

The Carothers story would be part of a tales of Delaware book, he said.

Mr. Martin said he also is working on another book about the state House of Representatives that complement his early works on the House and Senate. And, he has been working on one about the Eastern Shore of Maryland’s first Union infantry.

Until then, you can read his work daily in the State News.

“I think it’s important to show who we are and where we’ve come from and what it means to be a Delawarean,” he said.

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