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#136 “Doc” Martin, First African-American Cadet, Led the Ground School at Tuskegee Air Field

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Military Milestones

Harold Douglas “Doc” Martin was a native of Roslindale, Massachusetts, who entered Norwich University as a cadet in 1916, the first African-American to do so. While at Norwich, Martin studied electrical engineering and was heavily involved in student life. He was the star of the varsity football team in addition to playing baseball and hockey. He was also in Mandolin Club, Glee Club, and a member of the War Whoop staff–truly a well-rounded student.

After graduating from Norwich in 1920, Martin was denied a job at Westinghouse Electric because of his race, but managed to find work at another small electric company in Pittsburgh. During his time in that city he pitched for the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Keystones, two Negro League baseball teams.

Martin went on to have a successful career in college athletics, coaching and administering thriving athletic programs at Virginia State College, Miner Teachers’ College, and other institutions of higher learning. He earned a master’s degree in physical education from New York University. He also served as a commissioner for the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association, and was heavily involved in local and regional athletic organizations.

During World War II, Martin was stationed at Tuskegee Army Airfield, where all African-American Army Air Force pilots were trained. He was able to begin his commission there with the rank of captain due to his education at Norwich; however, like many Tuskegee Airmen, despite his advanced training and status, he struggled to gain acceptance as a leader because of his race. He eventually became the Director of the Ground School at Tuskegee and was promoted to the rank of Major.

Martin died in an accident during a routine flight in 1945 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He is memorialized in the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. In 1984, he was inducted into the Norwich Athletics Hall of Fame. He is also the namesake of the Harold “Doc” Martin Society, a multicultural student group that promotes a community of acceptance, inclusiveness, and diversity on campus.