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Martin, Robert F. 1946-

MARTIN, Robert F. 1946-

PERSONAL:

Born 1946. Education: Wofford College, B.A.; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, M.A. and Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Department of History, University of Northern Iowa, Seerley 308, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0701. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER:

Historian and educator. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, assistant professor of history; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, instructor in history; University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, professor of history, 1981—.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Iowa Regents' Award for Faculty Excellence.

WRITINGS:

Howard Kester and the Struggle for Social Justice in the South, 1904-1977, University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), 1991.

Hero of the Heartland: Billy Sunday and the Transformation of American Society, 1862-1935, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2002.

Contributor of articles and essays to periodicals.

SIDELIGHTS:

A professor of history at the University of Northern Iowa, Robert F. Martin has authored several book-length studies of individuals who strove to transform the American south during the early twentieth century. In Howard Kester and the Struggle for Social Justice in the South he profiles a little-known civil rights leader, while in Hero of the Heartland: Billy Sunday and the Transformation of American Society, 1862-1935 a more well-known figure is brought to life.

A Congregationalist minister based in Virginia, Howard Kester worked to advance the lives of both blacks and the rural Southern poor during the years between World Wars I and II. An idealist and socialist who defended striking coal miners and investigated lynchings of blacks for the fledgling NAACP, Kester eventually flirted with the quasi-communist Fellowship of Southern Churchmen in the mid-1930s before admitting defeat. Noting Martin's focus on Kester's "attraction to radicalism but his inability to embrace it" due to his strong religious convictions, Journal of Southern History contributor Melissa Kirkpatrick praised Howard Kester and the Struggle for Social Justice in the South for adding to readers' "understanding of the intrawar South." John Salmond praised the work in the Journal of American History as "a fine study of …a decent man who campaigned for economic and social justice in the South" before such efforts gained national attention, while in Choice, R. D. Ward cited the book as "more a study of Kester's intellectual journey than an analysis of the milieu in which he lived." Martin's work helps to fill "major gaps in the study of southern social activism prior to the civil rights movement," added Reviews in American History contributor Stewart Burns, the critic going on to praise Martin for penning an "exquisite, stirring biography" that not only "illuminates the vital role of religious commitment in southern progressive reform, but [also] …examines the major paths of faith-based activism and how they were shaped by personal values, cultural legacies, and social conditions."

Beginning life as an orphan, Iowa-born William Ashley "Billy" Sunday was a baseball player for the Chicago White Stockings before discovering his evangelical talents. Touring the United States after 1896, he promoted the traditional values of a nation moving toward urbanization while gripped with a nostalgia for its rural frontier past. Weaving together Sunday's meteoric rise as a charismatic speaker to the growth of Progressivism and Protestantism, in Hero of the Heartland Martin "does an excellent job in portraying Billy Sunday as the forerunner of contemporary televangelists," according to H-Net reviewer David G. Vanderstel, who praised the author for linking the rhetorical and theatrical methods used by such men and women back to "God's original heroic and 'muscular' preacher." In Library Journal, contributor Theresa R. McDevitt praised Hero of the Heartland as a "beautifully written" and "concise scholarly study" of the man often referred to as the "entrepreneurial evangelist."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Choice, January, 1992, R. D. Ward, review of Howard Kester and the Struggle for Social Justice in the South, p. 805.

Journal of American History, June, 1992, John Salmond, review of Howard Kester and the Struggle for Social Justice in the South, pp. 329-330.

Journal of Southern History, November, 1992, Melissa Kirkpatrick, review of Howard Kester and the Struggle for Social Justice in the South, p. 738.

Library Journal, October 15, 2002, Theresa R. McDevitt, review of Hero of the Heartland: Billy Sunday and the Transformation of American Society, 1862-1935, p. 80.

Reviews in American History, June, 1993, Stewart Burns, review of Howard Kester and the Struggle for Social Justice in the South, pp. 291-296.

ONLINE

H-Net Reviews,http://www2.h-net.msu.edu (January, 2003), David G. Vanderstel, "God's Man for Urban America.*"

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