Former senator, Delaware historian Roger Martin dies

MIDDLETOWN — Roger A. Martin, a former majority leader of the Delaware Senate and state historian, died Thursday. He was 83.

Sen. Martin wrote nine books on Delaware history. His last — “A History of Delaware through its Governors” — was released in December 2015.

He was author of the “Today in Delaware History” feature that appears in the Delaware State News.

Roger Martin holds his “History of Delaware through its Governors” book after its release in December 2015. (Delaware State News file photo)

When asked what his favorite date in Delaware history was, he was quick with a reply.

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

“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.”

Sen. Martin said his fascination with Delaware history reached back to his youth when he lived in 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.”

His book on Delaware’s governors was an update to one first published in 1984.

Each governor through the Ruth Ann Minner era is included. Along with the stories of the governors and the politics of the times, Sen. Martin wove in the stories of the big statewide events.

“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 told the Delaware State News in December.

Among his other books were “Tales of Delaware,” “Delaware’s Medal of Honor Winners,” “Memoirs of the Senate,” “Elbert N. Carvel,” Sherman W. Tribbitt,” “In Our Midst,” “Tales of Delaware, 2nd Edition,” and “Delawareans In Congress, Vol. I.”

Sen. Martin was born in Delmar, Maryland. He graduated from Laurel High in 1952, and worked for a short time at the DuPont Co. in Seaford and tried to make a go of it as a country music singer.

He soon opted to serve three years in the U.S. Army, and spent his final 27 months with military intelligence in Munich, Germany.

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. He graduated in 1961.

In 1972, he became the first student to complete his master’s degree in German from the university. That same year, the Democrat was elected to his first term to the Delaware State Senate, representing Newark. He served in the Senate until 1994.

He was elected majority leader of the Senate in 1977-78 and again in 1994.

After getting his master’s degree, Sen. Martin was a teacher. He taught history, Latin, German, French, Spanish at Middletown High School from 1973 to 1996.

Services will be held at noon Saturday at Daniels and Hutchison Funeral Home, 212 N. Broad St., Middletown, where friends may call from 10 a.m. to noon.

Burial with military honors will follow at the Old Drawyers Cemetery.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests donations may be made to The Heritage Commission or to the Delaware Archives.

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