Kendra Boyd: Thank you so much for joining us today Judge Martin. This begins an oral history interview with Judge Joshua W. Martin III on April 12, 2022, with Kendra Boyd and Jesse Bayker. This interview is being conducted virtually on Zoom. So, can you begin Judge Martin by telling us about where and when you were born?
Joshua W. Martin III: I was born in 1944, in Columbia, South Carolina.
KB: And what were your parents' names, place of birth and when were they born?
JM: Well, my father's name was Joshua W. Martin, and he added the Jr. to his name. He was born in Hopkins, South Carolina, which is just south of Colombia, in 1913. And my mother's name was Bernice Baxter Martin. I hesitated a little bit to be sure I get the right last name, but think her maiden name was Bernice Baxter Martin. She was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1921. So those are my parents, and I grew up with them in Columbia, South Carolina.
KB: Starting with your mom's side, can you tell us anything that you know about her family background, her ancestors?
JM: Well, just a little bit that I can tell you. I spent a fair amount of time with her grandmother and her grandmother's husband, so they were my great grandparents. In fact, I actually stayed with them during the first couple of years of my schooling. Her father had been a chef on the Atlantic Coastline Railroad, and actually provided meals to the then president, Franklin D. Roosevelt on trips between Washington DC, and the President's other residence in Augusta, Georgia. My mother's grandmother's husband worked for the Southern Railroad. So, growing up as a kid, we took a number of our vacations on places where the Southern Railroad trains actually went. This means as far as Birmingham, Alabama, and as far north as some of the cities that were there. We also traveled on another train, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, which I remember very clearly, all the way up to Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, where we had relatives. That's my mother side.
My father was the fifth of six brothers. They all started in Hopkins, South Carolina, which is just south of Columbia. I knew all of his brothers. I did not know his parents. Obviously, his father's name was Joshua W. Martin as well, and his mother's name was Julia Martin. But I did not know either one of them. They had passed prior to me being born. But his brothers mostly had biblical names. Isaiah, Edward (Ned), Abraham, Benjamin, and Simuel. And as I said, my father was the fifth in that line. So, part of my growing up was to spend time with those uncles. The last one passed about 10 years ago, and that was Simuel. I helped take care of funeral arrangements for him. But that covers the pertinent information on my mother and father's side of the family.
KB: You grew up in South Carolina, but your mother was born in Chicago. Can you explain a little bit about how did she get to South Carolina?
JM: A great question. My mother's father, of course, was with the railroad. And I don't know a lot of that history. But at some point, she came to live with her grandmother in Columbia, South Carolina, and she really grew up in Columbia. So even though she was born in Chicago, she grew up in Columbia, and she was very active in the church. She and my father met at Jones Memorial AME Zion Church in Columbia. So, she grew up there, met him when they were both in church, and they got married in 1943, actually in December of 1943. And so that's what brought her to Columbia, where my father had been all of his life prior to them getting together.
KB: Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like for you growing up in Columbia? What your childhood was like?
JM: Yeah, a very interesting situation. My mother being a teacher, and as it turns out for elementary school I went to the school where she was teaching, even though obviously, I was never in any of her classes. And that's why I lived with my great grandparents. That way, if I finished school early in the afternoon, I could walk to their home which was maybe like a mile and a half from the school, and just go back and live with my parents on the weekend. It was a very interesting situation we had. I got interested in science very early on in my high school career. And in fact, what really got my attention was when the Russians put the Sputnik satellite into orbit. I decided I wanted to be a scientist. So, I started getting involved in the National Science Fairs in high school. And I became a National Science Fair finalist in 11th grade. That kind of solidified my interest in science.
I went to segregated schools in Columbia, of course, and we did not have the best materials in our school. For example, all of our books, well most of our books, were secondhand. And I remember that because I went to probably one of the most progressive segregated schools in South Carolina, where in my senior year I was able to take an accelerated mathematics course. I think it was called college algebra. Also an advanced and accelerated geometry and trigonometry course. But all of those were with used books. But my mother and father were very, very intellectual. My mother was the teacher and really had the structure in terms of what education should be all about. And in fact, her specialty was reading as it turns out. My father was an absolutely brilliant man who went to college, majoring in chemistry. He withdrew in his junior year because he understood that once he got that degree, you would not be able to get a significant job with a chemistry background other than teaching. And he decided he wanted to be an entrepreneur. Also he could not get any financial support from family. At that point, he decided to withdraw from Benedict College in Columbia, and then open up a barbershop. He joined a barber shop, where he ultimately became a co-owner and ultimately, sole owner. But what I'm getting to with all of this is, we had in my home library better books on science than I had in my high school library. For example, we had books on electromagnetism, physical optics, mechanics, nuclear fusion, nuclear fission, you name it. We had two sets of encyclopedias, the Lincoln Library [of Essential Information], and I was the only kid in my block to have an unabridged dictionary in my home. So, my parents made sure that I had the resources to support what I said I wanted to do, and that was to become a scientist.
Now, you asked me a little bit about my experiences growing up, it sounds like—and my daughters tease me about this—that I was really a geek or nerd. But I was really very active in what was going on in my high school. I was the president of the band, I was assistant director of the choir, I was involved in many activities in high school, and even in athletics. By the way. I was on the tennis team, and we laugh about that. But I digress for a minute to tell you that at one point, I decided to go out for the basketball team. My best friend at that point was on the team. And I think he and the coach got together and decided the best place for me was to go back into the other building and go up into the chemistry lab and stay there and he would play basketball. To put this into perspective, that team went on to win the state championship and my best friend ended up playing on two NCAA championship teams at UCLA. Where, while he was there, they beat Michigan one year and Duke the other year. That shows you the caliber of play on that high school basketball team. And that's why I went back to the chemistry lab. But unless you have some further questions, that summarizes my experience in school, in the segregated schools of Columbia. I will add to the story by telling you when I did graduate, it was absolutely clear that I would not be able to enter the University of South Carolina, even though the campus at that point was probably two blocks from my house. But that's one of the reasons why I sought to get higher education in other places in the country.
KB: I do have a couple of follow up questions. What was your best friend's name who was the basketball star?
JM: Yeah, Kenny Washington. Kenny Washington, went to UCLA.
KB: I also wondered what projects did you do for the National Science Fair?
JM: Yes, I should point that out because I was very proud of that. It was called “Atomic Energy: Particles and Analysis.” I created a cloud chamber where you could see subatomic particles moving through the cloud chamber. In my senior year, I built an electromagnet where I could create a magnetic field, and then observe those particles moving in that supersaturated vapor in the cloud chamber. In the magnetic field, and knowing the strength of the field, I was able to make certain measurements on what was happening with those particles, including visualizing an actual collision of two subatomic particles. That was the photograph that I was most proud of. My father took me to a foundry, where we made two iron pole pieces, one having a conical opening in it so that I could put a camera on top and shoot pictures through the top of that, showing and photographing what was happening in the cloud chamber. I had a big walk-in-closet in my bedroom, and I hand wrapped an unbelievable amount of copper wire around both of these pole pieces. My father had a friend who gave me a 10,000-volt transformer, which I used to supply the electricity to the pole pieces. And I built a rectifier to convert that 10,000 volt AC current to DC, for the purpose of powering the electromagnet. So that was my project, this cloud chamber sitting in this magnetic field where I can took pictures of collisions of subatomic particles. That was it.
KB: Wow, that's pretty amazing.
JM: Well, I look back on it, and it was an unbelievable experience. It really was. Yes, I will tell you that I was a National Science Fair finalist in my junior year.
KB: So, you mentioned that once you graduated from, Booker T. Washington High School in 1962, that it was very clear that you would not be able to go to the University of South Carolina. I wondered how was that very clear? Did you attempt to apply, or there was there just an understanding that you wouldn't be able to go?
JM: The latter. Yeah, clearly the latter. You know, I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't actually pursue that, as other students in the Southeast did. But I knew that that was not a possibility. And since my focus was very limited i.e., I wanted a physics education and it became clear that I had to do something different.
Jesse Bayker: So now we come to the time when you're going to college, so can you tell us a little bit about how did you make the choice specifically to go to Case Western in Ohio? And how do you end up there?
JM: Well, through my mother's urging, I had gone to two summer science institutes prior to reaching 12th grade. One at Knoxville College, an HBCU, in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the other one at the University of Illinois, in Champagne-Urbana, Illinois. And so, when I was getting ready to graduate from high school, I chose what I thought were the five top technical schools in the country: MIT, Case Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Purdue University, and the University of Illinois, where I had just attended that summer, after my junior year. We didn't visit the schools in those days, at least I didn’t. I ordered catalogs and looked in the catalogs and figured out was this a place that I want to attend. I'd never been to Cleveland. But I did find out that I had a cousin who owned a pharmacy in Cleveland. And he, once my mother shared with him that I was applying, suggested if I got there then he would be able to look out for me and provide me with the sundries and all that good stuff, prescription medicines, you name it. So it was on that basis that Case came up as one of my choices. And when I didn't get into MIT, Case became my top choice. And that's where I ended up attending college.
JB: Great. So, can you talk a little bit about your time at Case Western and what that was like?
JM: Interesting for me, because I had never been to Cleveland before, and was really astounded by the size of that city and what you can do. I met some friends initially. It was interesting for me because there were only 17 blacks on the Case Institute of Technology campus at that point, and that included the graduate and professional schools. So, there were not a lot of black people around, which was obviously different for me because I had grown up in segregated schools where there were only black people. So that was new. And I remember the dean, and he and I had a great relationship, but he took me into his office fairly early on and said, “you know, boys from the South don't do well at this school. Unless maybe they come in from DeKalb County”—which I guess is around Atlanta—“or from the Miami area.” I interpreted that message to say, “Look, you got a couple of strikes against you. You're coming from the Southeast, where the preparation you got was probably not the best.” In effect, what he was saying was as a person of color it’s going to be a little bit difficult for you. So, I immediately started out thinking, “Okay, you know where the bar is, and you know what you have to get over to be successful.” And I said, “I'm going to have to work extremely hard.” My mother had supplemented my background before even getting there in areas like calculus and other mathematics fields. So, I struggled a little bit my first year, but getting some tutoring—I had a friend who was getting a PhD in mathematics, who tutored me—I ultimately got through calculus. Did not have the greatest year in the world, but survived and ultimately graduated with my degree in physics in four years. I tell the story that we had a little bit over 100 students, the beginning of my sophomore year, who declared physics as their major; 29 of us graduated. I was not number one, and I was not number 29. And I'm going to leave it right there. [laughter]
JB: Can you tell us if you were involved in anything on campus? What your relationships where like with the other students?
JM: Yes, great question. I entered a speech contest my freshman year, and I actually won that award. It was the Rupert Beckstett Speech Award. I think my subject that I spoke on was capital punishment. But that goes back to 1963, so, I'm not quite sure about the subject. But I did win that. I was in the concert band, my freshman year. I’m, proud to say I was first chair, second clarinet. So having been able to perform at that level, since I was the only African American, obviously, in the concert band, I really felt good about my assimilation at Case. But once I got to my sophomore year, I did not rejoin the concert band. I was also on the track team during my first year. And I laugh about that too, because my signature event was the 440-yard dash. And for the first three quarters of that race, I was right there with the contenders. But at the end of the race, I was very badly behind the leaders. I realized then that a track career was not for me. But, for the rest of the time that I was in school I participated in intermural athletics. I had joined the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity the spring of my freshman year, which was a city chapter. It covers five colleges and universities in Cleveland. So, I had that as a social outlet. Because there I had a chance to interact not only with African Americans from schools in Cleveland, but from around Ohio. So that constituted my social interaction. Case Institute of Technology consolidated with Western Reserve University the year after I graduated. But while I was there, I was able to do such things as eating in the dining halls at Western Reserve. And, of course, we only had a few girls at Case, but there were a lot of girls at Western Reserve. So that was another social outlet. Now of course it’s Case Western Reserve University. And I'm proud to say that in about the year 2000, I was elected a trustee at Case and served on the Board of Trustees for about nine years.
KB: So, after you graduated, can you tell us about your career, your career pursuits that you had before you went to Rutgers?
JM: Yes let me provide a little context before answering your question. When I was a National Science Fair finalist, the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company agent in Columbia, South Carolina, put my picture on the front of the corporate, magazine, if you will. It's called the Whetstone (W-H-E-T-S-T-O-N-E). As a result of that, the president of the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company at that time, his name was Asa Spaulding, had a friend named James Q. DuPont. So, when James Q. DuPont—who was a member of the DuPont family and at that point had a role with the company in Wilmington, Delaware—saw my picture. He thought that that might be an opportunity for me to become employed at the DuPont Company. So, after my freshman year at Case, I became a summer intern, if you will, at a DuPont Company facility in Gibbstown, New Jersey, which was called Eastern Laboratory. This was an Explosives Department facility. So that got me into the DuPont Company. Obviously, it was not in Wilmington, Delaware, but it was in South Jersey. I worked there also after my junior year doing research, appropriate research for someone with my level of training. That's where my career traversed after I left Case. I will point out that toward the end of my tenure at Case, my advisor, a very brilliant man who just passed away only few years ago, who I really trusted, had a coaching session with me. Basically, he kind of shared with me what I interpret to be that I was not going to be a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Physics--I like to express it that way. He suggested that law might be a better fit. At the end of that conversation, I decided, look, it's science and technology that I love. It may be that I can someday have a better career in law, but not right now. So, I put that lawyer idea on the parking lot, and went ahead and pursued my science and technology work with the DuPont Company right after graduating from Case with my physics degree. And I ultimately enrolled in a Master's in Materials Engineering program at Drexel University. But that's how that transition occurred. I thank that advisor for that advice, because ultimately, I ultimately took his advice and pursued the law and kind of turned my back on technology. But that is exactly what happened to me after I graduated from Case and that brought me to the DuPont Company and brought me to the Northeast part of the United States.
JB: Can you talk a little bit about what Gibbstown, New Jersey was like? What were your interactions with people there?
JM: Gibbstown, New Jersey was a very small town, across the Delaware River, by the way, from Chester, Pennsylvania. The testing facility was located near the river, and was on the site of a production facility called Repauno. But this is where they did research on explosives. Obviously, I was the first black employee at the professional level at that facility. So, it was interesting. But people were very kind, people were very helpful. And I was able to really do significant research there, all related to explosives. I developed one patent there while doing my research, had a number of very interesting research projects. It gave me a lot of confidence to be able to take a problem and develop a solution for it. And that kind of helped my brain in terms of the ability to see things and fix them. For example, one of the issues that some of DuPont's customers had was measuring the fragmentation of rock, say, in quarries, mines and tunnels. We wanted a way that we could show, rather that our customers could show the people who they were doing the work for, that the Dupont explosive broke up these materials better than the competitor’s explosive. So, they asked me to develop a solution to that problem. I was working with a number of PhD geophysicists and what have you, who were very experienced scientists and engineers. They were thinking about using radar, sonar or other sophisticated approaches. I said, “Well, you know, a more direct approach might be to use photography.” So, I developed an approach where you could photograph what we call the muck pile, when all the rock is on the ground after the explosive has gone off, take pictures very quickly and then get out of the way so that the production activities can continue. Afterwards we could take those pictures back to the lab, have somebody analyze them by taking measurements and knowing what the distribution of the fragmentation should be, conceptually, convert those measurements into a distribution. This then allowed you can go back to the customer and say, for example, “the DuPont explosive broke up this ore, for example, into pieces that are 12 inches in diameter, and the competitors broke up this rock into pieces that are 18 inches diameter. Therefore, when you take this ore and put it through your processing facilities, the materials that were fragmented with the DuPont explosive, are going to be much smaller in size, and it's going to be more efficient, i.e., you will use [less] electricity and therefore, your customers should use that DuPont explosive.” So that was the kind of project that I worked on and it was quite successful. That technique was not patentable. It was just kept as a trade secret. But it allowed the company to promote its explosives to its customers. And it was a result of that, really, where I got my promotion from physicist to senior physicist at that laboratory.
JB: Can you talk a little bit about the patent that you developed there?
JM: Yes. It turns out that armor in those days, A-R-M-O-R, was being made with very brittle ceramic powders like boron carbide and silicon carbide. If you use the classic method of breaking up those particles, using techniques similar to using a ball and pestle, imagine you put in something it's very hard and you shake it up and that breaks up the particles. The only problem with that is you introduce impurities from the materials used to break up the ceramic particles. If these particles are going to be used in personnel armor and they're going to be heated so that they would melt, fragments from the material that you used to break them up would form abnormalities, if you will, in that material. If someone has on a personnel armor vest and a bullet hits it, and it happens to hit the abnormality, that part of the armor isn't going to have integrity and it isn't going to protect that person. So, what I wanted to do was to find a way to break up these powders, so they were very fine, with a process that didn’t introduce any impurities. And I decided, that one of the best ways to do this is with the energy from a shockwave. So, I developed a method where you use a device, where you put these powders and then you wrap the outside of that device in a plastic explosive. Then you detonate the explosive so that the shockwave, which is really just a pressure discontinuity, would go through that material and break it up. So, the only external force that's interacted with those materials is the shockwave, i.e., the pressure discontinuity. With this approach you don’t introduce any impurities. You can then take those materials, have them made into personnel armor for individuals, armor for helicopters, tanks, you name it. And it was a very effective way of solving that problem. That's what I got a patent on. The patent was called Apparatus for Shocking Materials. Pretty graphic. [laughter] So that was it.
JB: Great. So then, while you were going to Drexel, did you live in Philadelphia?
JM: No, I actually lived in South Jersey, initially in Paulsboro, which is, you probably know is just north of Gibbstown, and obviously south of Camden. And then I ultimately moved to Magnolia right on the White Horse Pike next to Lawnside, where I was involved in that community. And then ultimately to Marlton, which is next to Cherry Hill. But I did not live in Philadelphia during any of that period when I was attending Drexel.
JB: Can you talk a little bit about what those towns were like? We know Lawnside is a very important community here in South Jersey for African Americans. Did you connect with the community there?
JM: Yes, I did. I attended the Annunciation Episcopal Church right there on Warwick Road in Lawnside, I think that was right across from either the school or City Hall, I can't remember which one. But in being involved in the church, I was friends with a local priest there, and that was really my community. As it turns out, I had learned how to play the piano and the organ growing up as a kid because I was very involved in the church. So, I became the organist at that Annunciation Episcopal Church. And when I did get to law school, I was the organist at the Episcopal Church on Warwick Road with a 10:00 service on Sunday morning. And then I was the organist at a Methodist Church on White Horse Pike, about 4 blocks away, that started at 11:30. And the way I express it is I asked the Lord if He would allow me to support my family, while working as an organist at those two churches every Sunday, I would promise that when I graduated from law school, I would never torture another congregation. And I kept my promise. [laughter] I have stayed around music, primarily choral music, but I haven't been the organist at any church since then. As it turns out, at the Methodist church I had three other choir directors working under me with the youth choir, the gospel choir and the senior choir, so that was a big deal. But that is my response to your question, that I was very involved in that Lawnside community there and had a lot of friends there at that time.
KB: Now we want to transition to your time at Rutgers University Law School. So, can you tell us how you made the decision to shift from your science background to law?
JM: Yes, as it turns out, the DuPont Company was in the process of closing that research laboratory in Gibbstown and I had pursued a transfer to a facility in Augusta, Georgia that DuPont operated for the then Atomic Energy Commission. I was going to be a physicist down there, which was an exciting point in my parent's life, because Augusta, Georgia is about two hours from Columbia, South Carolina where I grew up. Now this young man is coming back to the Southeast with his family, to work at what was considered one of the top professional locations in that part of the country. But at the time I had made applications for the transfer, I also had applied to a number of law schools. And as fate would have it, I got my acceptance for the transfer to what was going to be Augusta, Georgia prior to getting the security clearance. Between the time of the transfer being effective and the security clearance, my law school acceptances came in. And because I did have my first wife, at that point, and we were expecting a child, it made a lot of sense to make applications that were close to family. So, I did apply to the University of South Carolina, but I also applied to Rutgers, because I was living in South Jersey at the time. Once the acceptances came in, and I had a conversation with the dean at the Law School, who was Russell Fairbanks, I made the decision that Rutgers in Camden was the best choice for me, because I would obviously be able to commute. At that point, I was living in Marlton, just a matter of getting on Route 70 and driving to Camden for classes. My then wife was attending the Rutgers undergraduate college in Camden at the same time. So that made a lot of sense. So that's how I ended up going to Rutgers Law School.
JB: So right around the time when you were starting at Rutgers Camden, well, right before you started, there's a lot of turmoil in Camden. Because we know the Camden Riots or Camden Uprisings, depending on who's talking, these events are taking place in the summer of 1971. Do you have any memories of what was going on with community at that time regarding this turmoil with the police?
JM: My memory of the turmoil is not as vivid as my memory of the community's reaction to some of that. Where I got involved being in Camden as a law student was in some of the community development activities. I got involved in something that was called BPUM, the Black People's Unity Movement, who was driven at that point by a very militant figure who had really captured the attention of the community and suggested that one of the ways to divert attention from the turmoil is to get involved in economic development. So, I then started to work for BPUM subsidiaries, one which was developed and operated a multifamily housing complex, if you will, in Camden. This enterprise also developed certain businesses, including a gas station, and a garment factory. So, I was involved on the legal side of those business entities that were all under the auspices of the BPUM facility. So, in addition to its militancy focus, it also had an economic development focus. So, my memory is much clearer on that part of it than it is on the actual response to the turmoil that was going on in the city. But obviously, that provided some context for what we were doing. People were disenfranchised in the city and obviously, you know, from a Law School's point of view, being a tremendous resource, we felt that we could bring a response to some of that turmoil, so that kind of puts a little bit of a spin on where I got involved.
KB: Do you remember how you first learned about the BPUM, or how you decided to get involved?
JM: You know, I don't remember the details on that, except I will tell you that the head of BPUM at that point was Harvey Johnson. Harvey Johnson was a graduate of Penn Law School. He and his other friend, who was also involved in BPUM, Buford Tatum, was another graduate of Penn Law School. I don't know how I met the two of them, but having two experienced, dedicated lawyers at the head of the shop is what brought me in and Harvey Johnson ultimately became a judge in South Jersey. I don't know if he's retired yet or not. I just haven't been in touch with him for the last couple of years. I do know that Buford Tatum has passed. But that was the attraction for me. The fact that I could use whatever legal skills I was developing and be involved, from a economic development perspective, in the city of Camden. You had another question for me, right?
KB: Do you have anything else to add about that?
JM: Yes, in addition to those businesses that I mentioned, one of the businesses was someone decided was needed was a Burger King in Camden. And they decided to put this Burger King adjacent to the law school. And because of the fact that, I'm this law student now, and I'm in BPUM, I was allowed to work on almost all of the legal documents associated with that Burger King. The franchise agreement, obviously because it was a Burger King franchise, the financing arrangement was what they called a MESBIC, which was a way of attracting funds, some of the licensing that was going on, some of the real estate documents. So here I am, I'm a law student and I'm able to be involved in bringing in a Burger King restaurant, which is right adjacent to the law school. That Burger King was probably demolished maybe like 8 or 10 years ago or so, but it was right there adjacent to the law school and that's, you know, one of the more visible things that I worked on. And being a law student, and being able to work on that under the guidance of Harvey Johnson and Buford Tatum was just a significant event for me, because it built my confidence that as a lawyer I would be able to do quality work. So that's one of the most significant experiences, as I said, for me during that period. [Editor’s note: Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Companies (MESBICs) are government-chartered venture firms that invest in companies or organizations that are at least 51 percent owned by members of a minority group.]
KB: Could you talk a little bit about the classroom experience at the law school, your interaction with professors, and just your actual experience attending the law school.
JM: Classroom experience was very good. I managed to align myself with three other Black students who started my same year. And there were actually seven total but and we couldn't get the other black students to align with us. But we studied together when we were preparing for exams, wB trusted each of us to develop outlines that would be shared with the others on each of the major subjects we would be tested on. At exam study time we would find space where for days, we just worked together and studied. All of us were successful, but it turns out that only two of us ultimately graduated. And the other two withdrew for various reasons. So, to that extent, that was some of the most lucrative relationships that I had while I was in law school. I also became involved in what we called the Black Law Students Association, And actually, my second year, I was president of that organization. And because of that, I was also the student that the law school decided to put on the admissions committee, which was just a unique step for the school administration to take. Whereas I told you that my first year we had seven black students that first year. The second year, that number jumped to about 40. A number of those students developed into attorneys and judges that I still know. The former Chief Judge of the Delaware District Court, Greg Sleet, was in that class; the former Chief Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Wilmington, Alex Smalls, was also a member of that class. The late Hailey Alford who became a Superior Court Judge in Delaware was also in that class. And there were a number of other Black law students who went on to perform as lawyers and judges in that class. So, the point is, I was very active in trying to promote opportunities for other Black students at the law school. Part of the strategy that I advocated was to develop alliances. When I came to the law school, I was a bit older—I might have been like 27—than a number of the other students, but I tried to bring some maturity into the approaches that we took. And for example, my role was very often to say, “We can’t make these kinds of changes here, by ourselves.” So, we aligned ourselves with for example, the Student Bar Association. We would work together on projects and try to benefit each other, and through those kinds of alliances, we would do things like bring in a lot more students of color to the law school, and make the kinds of changes that were constructive, that we would not have been able to accomplish if we were just working alone. So those are some of the most significant experiences I had.
My mentors were people who were ahead of me, like Wayne Bryant, who became a legislator in New Jersey, and Ron Freeman, who became a judge in the Superior Court, right there in Camden. They were kind of like my big brothers who kind of looked out for me and put me in the right direction, even sold me used books. And that was just a great experience because they knew South Jersey, and they also knew how to give me the kind of guidance I needed to move forward. I hope I covered all aspects of your question, but those are some of the more significant relationships and experiences that I had at the Law School.
Right, you did ask me about the professors. The professors were very accessible, obviously very good. A couple of things, you know, you remember from long ago, and one thing I remember was Dean Fairbanks who had come from Columbia Law School, telling us that “once you graduate from this law school, you will be able to compete with graduates of the best law schools in the country.” I never forgot that. And that was always a great bit of inspiration for me. If I'm dealing with law students from places like Harvard, Yale, Penn, Michigan, Stanford, you name it, that he had suggested that the education you're going to get here is going to be some of the best you can get in this country. So again, the professors were very accessible. There were courses that I did better in than other courses. And some not necessarily in my wheelhouse, but it was a great intellectual experience. I digress for a minute to tell you that the reason why that was so important for me, I got on the science and technology bent back as a freshman in high school. I'd been on that up until prior to entering law school. What I wanted when I got to Rutgers was the intellectual experience of being in something closer to a liberal arts environment, than just a technical school. My undergraduate experience was all about technology. But here, you know, I kind of express it by saying, what was impressive for me was to sit around the coffee shop and talk about the great jurisprudential issues of the day, you know what I mean? So, I was there for that reason. And the end story on that was, it didn't occur to me until after my second year, you know, this is going to end soon, you have to figure out what kind of job you want to get. I was enjoying myself so much in law school. Not like today's law students who come into law school with some idea of where they want to end up, I had no clue. My goal was to get into law school and enjoy the experience. So that kind of covers the three years that I spent at Rutgers Camden.
JB: Can you talk a little bit about these recruitment efforts? Because you mentioned that you were dramatically able to increase the enrollment of students of color at Rutgers Camden law school. Can you say how that was accomplished?
JM: I must admit, I don't remember the details of what we did to spread the message. And that's unfortunate. I would be making that up if I tried. But obviously, the word got out that Rutgers was a good choice for the Delaware Valley, obviously you had Penn, Villanova, Temple during those days, but the word got out and people made the application. And obviously, we were aggressive in attracting them. But I can't give you any more detail on that. I just can't.
JB: Do we want to move on, or do you have any other reflections on the law school experience?
JM: Yes. In your question, you'd asked me about some of the turmoil that was going on in the city. I was very familiar with the government and the governor’s process in the city. And one of the people who worked at BPUM with me and ultimately became mayor, was Randy Primus. So I wanted to mention him because that was also an aspect of my involvement in Camden, in knowing the people who were trying to help the city. And obviously, a lot of changes were made after my tenure there, such as Trenton taking a more active role in what needed to happen in Camden. But as you can tell from what I tried to describe here, BPUM was a very active and integral power in the city of Camden at that time, in a very positive way to try to help the city, redevelop, if you will.
JB: Do you have any memories of Randy Primus and your relationship that you would like to share?
JM: Well, I remember him at BPUM being one of the executives who were working there, he became mayor of the city after I left Camden. So, I don't have any active recollection of his tenure as mayor, other than the fact that he did ascend to that position after having worked with us. I guess, if there's a message here, it is that there were some very accomplished people who had gravitated toward this economic development corporation in the city who ultimately went on to distinguish themselves, and play an integral part in helping the city recover.
JB: So, before we move on to your career after Rutgers, I also just wanted to see were there any other issues that black students through your association were dealing with besides recruitment and admissions. Were there any other things that you as a group were thinking about and wanting to correct at Camden?
JM: Yes. Something just came to mind that I should mention. I talked a lot about alliances and what have you. You know, back in those days, one of the things that we thought was very important in getting through law school was obviously doing well on exams. How do you do that? Getting access to old exams was one of the ways you could. And we always heard back in those days that there were organizations at the law school, other than us, who had these old exams, who had insight into the things that you could study that would help you. So when I talked about those alliances, before, that was one of the significant alliances that we made, so that we, the black students got access to some of these old exams, so that we had resources that were similar to the resources that the white students had, so that we could do well. Because in addition to that recruitment, retention was also a big part of what we were trying to accomplish. And I'm very proud to say that we were able to utilize the relationships that we developed outside of our own community of just black students to be successful.
One other point I might mention, too, and I'll never forget this. My first year, I had a great relationship with the dean at that time, Russell Fairbanks, and I wanted to go to the National Bar Association (NBA) annual meeting. The NBA is the largest minority bar association in the country. The meeting was in Miami, Florida. And I remember getting financial assistance from the Dean to do that. And I became a member of the National Bar Association as a student then, and still am today. Because I believe very strongly that there is a role for minority bar associations to play, especially the NBA. And the fact that I got that kind of support from the leadership at the Law School, back around 1971 to ‘72, I think is significant. So, I did want to mention that as well.
KB: You mentioned earlier, Judge Martin, that you went to law school, and you didn't necessarily have an idea of what career you would have after. So, I want to hear a little bit more about how you decided once you graduated with your law degree, where to go next, what to do next?
JM: Very interesting question. I shared with you all already that even in my second year, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought, as I approached that summer, after my second year, maybe real estate was something that I could pursue. Obviously, being a patent attorney was something that I wanted to consider, but that's a pretty obvious link to what I was doing. As fate would have it, and I laugh when I tell this story because this is atypical for law students, I had a cookout in my backyard after my second-year law school. And a friend of mine invited his brother, who was a recruiter for a chemical company in Wilmington, Delaware, called Hercules Incorporated, which was then a spinoff from the DuPont Company. And he said, have you thought about becoming a patent attorney in-house. And I said, “No, but that's kind of interesting. Let me pursue that.” So, I did. And along with the thought of trying to go with a federal agency, like HEW (federal department of Health, Education and Welfare), I said “let me pursue this patent attorney career.” So, I applied to Hercules as he had suggested and also to DuPont, where if you think about it, that made a lot of sense, because I had worked at DuPont in the explosives area, that'll obviously be an advantage in coming back and bridging with the time already spent there, from a benefit point of view. So that's how I ended up applying to those two corporations. And back in those days, that was not the route you took to become an in-house patent attorney. The route of a patent attorney was generally to work in a technology field in a corporation, go to law school on a part-time basis, and then become a patent agent, and then finally become a patent attorney. I was going to do it a little bit differently and I decided to take that chance.
And the reason why I chose Hercules was because what they offered me, in my opinion, was a chance to have breadth in terms of my career. Had I gone with the DuPont, it was recognized as probably the best corporate patent department in the country… But Hercules was going to allow me to do a lot of different things. And I found that prospect to really be interesting. So, to take it a step further, Hercules supported me going to the US Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia, where the patent agents were trained. So, I would go down there three or four days a week, stay in a local hotel, go to the Patent Academy and that's where I learned enough to be able to pass the patent bar exam in 1976. I had passed the New Jersey Bar Exam in 1974 and the Delaware Bar Exam in 1975.This is of course after I started working at Hercules. So that's how I made that transition from law student to in-house patent attorney for a company that allowed me to not only do what we call prosecuting patent applications, i.e., taking other people's inventions and developing them into a patent, but also to do licensing. So, I got a chance to interact with other companies in the US and companies, in other countries, which was the kind of breadth that I was looking for.
One of the things that starts to weave into my background at this point was breadth; let me not just be doing one thing, let me do some different things. And I saw a chance there to not only draft patent applications and interact with inventors, but also to be involved in licensing. And as fate would have it, software was starting to become an issue then. My company was acquiring software and we did have some inventions, if you will, that we'd developed that had to be licensed outside. There was no attorney in the legal department who was doing that kind of work. So, I think my supervisors asked me if I was interested, I said, “sure!” You know, I'd gotten used to trying new and different things. So, I became the software expert, if you will, in the legal department at Hercules, which opened up all kinds of doors. I was able to work with other attorneys who started to work on the hardware aspects of computers. So that kind of gave me some additional breadth, and also allowed me to utilize the technical background that I had, and I was doing something other than just the patent prosecution and licensing work. So, the significant part of my initial work in-house was the breadth of activities that I was involved in.
JB: So, I know that at the same time, when you were working there, you also then started with the Delaware Public Service Commission in the late 70s. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what that was all about?
JM: Thank you, that's a really significant inflection point in my professional development. I got to Wilmington in 1974, after graduating from Rutgers and passing the New Jersey bar exam. And I don't remember all of the details on this, but an acquaintance asked if I would be interested in becoming a director at a federal credit union. You’ll see how all of this comes together in just a minute. So, I did, knowing nothing about finance. But it gave me an opportunity to become involved in the community. And I did that on two federal neighborhood credit unions. So, I'm starting to get known by people in Delaware, even though I can't say that I was smart enough to know that that was what I should have been doing. But I was trying to make a contribution to the community. Also, Hercules supported me in joining the board of the Better Business Bureau. So now I'm getting involved in another aspect of the community, I’m becoming known as someone in Wilmington, other than just someone who is in a law department office every day and doesn't get involved in what's going on at a more grassroots level or in the small business community.
Well I had developed a friendship with a guy who ended up being one of the first African Americans in then governor's cabinet, and that was James Gilliam, Jr. And at some point Jim called me and said the governor is trying to fill an opening on the Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission at that point in Delaware, regulated the electricity, natural gas, cable TV, water, and telephone companies, and taxicabs too. Again, this breadth thing crept in. It’s a part-time position in Delaware. So, I said, in addition to my patent work, which I really liked, maybe I can take a shot at that. Because when you think about things like electricity and natural gas and telephones as technology, they’re related. Maybe I'll take a shot. So, I agreed to join the Public Service Commission, which again was part-time. And after the first six months, the governor made me the acting chair, because the then chair had moved on. And that worked very well. And this was Governor Pete DuPont. Six months after that I became the permanent chair. So I chaired the commission, during some very interesting times. One of those times occurred when the Arab oil embargo was really creating financial pressure on utilities in the US. And many governors were being ushered out of office because, in addition to keeping those utilities as viable businesses, regulators also had to make sure the prices didn't get to the point where consumers couldn't afford to pay for utilities such as electricity and natural gas. So, part of my challenge was to provide governance of an agency that had to work through that delicate balance. I was chair during a period of time when the Three Mile Island accident occurred up in Harrisburg. Like I like to tell people, you know, “up the road a piece.” Certainly if there had been the kind of disaster there that you had at the Russian facility at Chernobyl, that would have been an issue for all of the Delaware Valley. And we certainly had at that time, nuclear power stations across the Delaware River in South Jersey. So, for someone who had a background in physics and understood the difference between fission and fusion, being able to relate to the media and share what really was happening at Three Mile Island was of value. So, my profile kind of increased as a result of all of that.
To take it a step further, around 1982, I went to the governor and said, "You know, I am unbelievably privileged with the faith that you've had in me to allow me to chair the Public Service Commission for these three years. I've enjoyed it. But now I want to go back and focus on my career as a patent attorney. And I'd gotten some inquiries from some very interesting organizations around the country who were looking for a patent attorney with my skill set. So, one of the governor's colleagues and cabinet secretaries came to me and said, “There is going to be an opening on the Superior Court in Delaware, would you be interested in applying?” I had already given the governor my six months’ notice. This was like in January of ‘82. And I thought about it and got a lot of advice from people who I really respected. But to put this into perspective for you, it had never been my desire to become a judge. I think I did take courses when I was at Rutgers Law School, such as criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence. But most of the courses that I took were more focused on things like corporations, agency law, taxation, patents and other intellectual property areas. I knew that this was going to be a significant transition for me. But people told me there had never been a person of color, certainly an African American, on any of the constitutional courts in Delaware. And I guess something about that got me excited. I said, “You know, you only pass this way once. You don't come into this world with a whole lot, so take the risk and see what it does for you.” So, I applied. And as you can imagine, the Governor appointed me, I was confirmed by the Delaware Senate, and in the summer of 1982 I became a Superior Court Judge in the state of Delaware. So that's how that happened. And that's how I made the transition away from being an in-house patent attorney, to becoming a jurist on what a lot of people consider one of the best state courts in the country.
KB: Do you have any memories you want to share about your time as a judge and that experience?
JM: Yes. Obviously, I shared with you the lack of the standard background that people have when they're going on the bench, i.e., they've probably been litigators. I had not been. I had never tried a case in that court. The joke in Wilmington then, and now I can say it was a joke, was they had to show me where the courthouse was. Well, I had gone into the courthouse to find out if I'd passed the bar exam, but I wasn't experienced at all. Now, all of a sudden, I'm a judge in a court that has criminal and civil jurisdiction. Even though I felt more comfortable with civil matters, those are just about dollars. But when you're dealing with the criminal matters, I found that to be an unbelievably sobering prospect, because you're dealing with people's lives. Not just the defendants that come into your court, but their families, their communities, people who want to give them jobs, people who want to support them, and the victims. So, this was a very significant transition for me. During the first six weeks I would go home every night and take out my review materials from the bar exam on criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence and study well into the evening. But my colleagues on the court were unbelievably supportive. They went out of their way to make sure that I was successful. And it didn't matter to me whether their interest was the court or whether it was me personally. From my perspective, it translated to be support for me, to making sure that I was going to be successful. So that was one of the most significant experiences that I had as a professional.
I tried cases, all the way from appeals of speeding cases, up to capital murder. I never had to order anyone to be executed though. As fate would have it, a number of the capital murder cases that I had ended up in pleas to lesser charges. Alternatively there were acquittals on some of the lesser charges and the prosecution decided not to go forward with the death penalty. So that gave me tremendous respect for the judiciary across the country. And now I'm just so honored when I get a chance to sit down with judges who are on the court right now, because I can appreciate what they experience. It is just an unbelievably sobering experience. But for me, that was significant, and a significant transition. But again, a transition and one theme that runs through my career is transitions, because I had not prepared for that new responsibility. But if I can take you to the next step, I had a 12-year term on the Court. And I knew that if I kept my nose clean, as far, as the judiciary is concerned, I could get another 12-year term and then I could retire with full retirement benefits. But the same friend who brought me to the attention of the governor back in the late ‘70s said, “You know, there is a Baby Bell that's getting ready to establish a legal office in Delaware--would you be interested in being considered as General Counsel?” This Baby Bell was Bell Atlantic. That, to me, was a position that I had always dreamed about. . There was something about being a vice-president, it was not just that I would be General Counsel, I was going to be Vice-President, General Counsel. I said again, “Look, you only pass this way once.” I'm eight years into my 12-year term on the court. I had seen significant civil matters before the court. There were two insurance coverage cases, that were both worth about $2 billion at the time and I got the opportunity to preside over those trials. These insurance coverage cases had on the defense side about 30 defendants, because with insurance coverage, you have layers of insurance. And you have attorneys, in fact law firms, representing each one, both foreign attorneys and Delaware attorneys. When we had an office conference in those matters, they were on the fourth Friday of every month—I don't know why we made it the fourth Friday, not the last Friday—but there would be a minimum of 125 lawyers in the courtroom . So, I said, “I'm not going to see cases larger than this if I stay on this court for the rest of my life.” And as I mentioned to you, I had already done the full spectrum of criminal cases as well. So, I made the decision to leave the court.
But one significant thing I point out about this tenure on the court, I don't know how I could ever forget this. Two years after I joined the court, the Chief Justice, whose name was Daniel Herrmann came to me and said, “Look, we cannot process all of the civil matters in the court, because the criminal matters, based on the criminal case mandate, are absorbing our judicial resources. We need to have a way to address some of these civil cases where trial dates, in many cases, are set as much as 36 months out; we need to start a court annexed arbitration program.” And this was the new thing that was happening all over the country. And so, I had no experience in that either. But I jumped in and with the benefit of some absolutely brilliant lawyers, who helped develop what was a successful program, we started the court annexed arbitration program in Delaware. What was significant about the Delaware experience was that in these civil matters, criminal cases got diverted into lawyer-arbitrator hearings, with very little discovery. Initially, the bar pushed back against this approach because with the exception of some minor instances, in terms of discovery, you went right into the hearing process. And the attempt initially was to get these cases out of the system within six to nine months. In those days, that was just unheard of. But that was the program and it was very successful. It became a model for programs around the country. I had obviously started this program, and I was also teaching at the National Judicial College out in Reno. And in the wintertime, we would have those classes in San Diego. So, I met unbelievably brilliant judges from all over the country, including the late Judge Samuel DeSimone from South Jersey. Judge DeSimone and I even produced a video on what we called judicial mediation that was used by judges from all over the country. But these activities were a significant part of what I did in learning how to utilize arbitration and mediation technique This work has transitioned me to exactly what I'm doing now. But much of this happened when I was in the Superior Court in Delaware.
But picking up where I dropped off, I got this opportunity to go into Bell Atlantic as Vice-President and the General Counsel in 1990. So here I am in a technology area now. And the attraction for me was, as I indicated to you, with the Public Service Commission, we regulated the telephone company. Now it's telecommunications, a little bit different. The business has really shifted from a situation where you're transmitting data over copper wires, and now you're moving toward fiber optics. And I never will forget coming into that business where it became clear that I knew nothing about the telecom business, you know, how to get a message from here to there. But a lot of people took me under their respective wings. I was smart enough not to just associate with my peers, who were other lawyers and engineers, but with the people who go up and down the poles, people who go down into the manholes, people who are in the call centers dealing with customers, to learn the business. One of the most significant things that I did, and I love to refer to this because I had a very good relationship with labor. I would get up in the morning and go to the garages from one end of the state to the other. And I get there by 7:00, before the men and women would go out on their rounds. And I would tell them, “I'm coming down to talk to you about what's happening in the company, things that you might not have heard from your literature sources.” And I would spend five minutes talking to them about what I knew that they had not heard, then 55 minutes listening to them. Because these were the people who were close to the customers, these were the people who could come back and share with me and then I can relate to my senior executives, what the customers really wanted in terms of good telephone service. And that kind of relationship was so important to me that even today, you know, occasionally I'll walk down the street, and I'll see some guys coming out of a manhole, they'll recognize me because these are the people who made it work. And of course, allowed me to be successful.
And one of the things that doesn't happen a lot in this country—and you can see, give me a pulpit and I'll talk about almost anything—having good labor-management relations is the best way to deliver quality service to customers. That should be what it's all about. We were able to do that. In fact, when the Communication Workers of America would have a national strike, and the local members were picketing. I spent a few minutes out there with them, respecting the fact that they’re labor and I’m management, but wanting them to understand that we are a team in this. I would say that I too was hoping that they got a good national contract. But I want them to know that this was not a foreign situation.” I never destroyed that relationship. And about once every six months, we'd have a lunch with a couple of my executives, and the executives of the union, i.e., the local president, and the local vice president. And that was significant for me because you understand that it really takes a team to deliver, and I learned that in that context.
But that was my initial experience at Bell Atlantic. I joined the company in 1990 and the company later became Verizon. I'm jumping ahead of myself though. In 1996, after having been General Counsel and working on a number of projects, for example, I got this service called caller ID approved in Delaware. You all know what that is, I don't have to tell you, that was high profile then -- it really was. And then I worked on a number of the more aggressive approaches to free Bell Atlantic from the strictures of being a monopoly. My job was to encourage the regulators to understand what we needed to be able to compete with our competitors, who can sit in a customer's reception room, and with a felt tip pen, change prices and what have you. Because we were a monopoly, we couldn’t do that. At that point in time, it would take a major regulatory proceeding for my company to adjust prices and make any other changes in the nature of our services. And if we were going to bring value to our customers, we needed to get that freedom. The nice name for that is deregulation. So back in those days, our competitors were AT&T, and not the current AT&T but the former one, and MCI. And that was a very successful time for my little company in Delaware, compared to some of the larger Bell Atlantic companies in states like New York, Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and of course, New Jersey. But as a result of that, the senior executives, including my management on the legal department, felt that I had the qualifications to become the president of the company. And it's so funny because one of my mentors, who was at the top of the legal department came to me and suggested that the presidency might be something I should pursue. My first reaction was, “No, no, no. I'm a lawyer. You know, I've done a lot of different things. I've never aspired to be president of a company.” But fortunately, I had attended courses at the Wharton School in the Economic Development Program, so I had a little bit of a background about what management should be about. But for those reasons and others, I became president of Bell Atlantic Delaware in 1996. And the company name changed to Verizon in 2000. So, I was actually president and CEO until I retired from Verizon in 2005. So now you know how I got into the telecom industry.
KB: Do you want to tell us a little bit about your experience being the president and CEO of Verizon Delaware?
JM: Another sobering experience, because, you know, I never aspired to a position like that, but it obviously gave me a platform to get involved in a number of activities in Delaware. You can see from the pre-interview survey how many entities I was involved in, including nonprofits, social service agencies, and I'm sure I didn't cover them all. But that was just an absolutely great platform, being president of a major company. Obviously, it gave me access to people around the country which kind of allowed me to build my profile and reputation, which was a significant factor leading up to what I do now. My practice, even though we haven't gotten to the law firm discussion yet, obviously, is built on the kind of context that I developed while I had been President and CEO of Verizon. And just in terms of technology, I have so much respect for what I learned in that business. The lawyers at Verizon were absolutely brilliant. And I still have a relationship with some of them. But that was just a significant professional experience. I can't say enough. I had a number of professional experiences, and if you would ask me which one was the best, I wouldn't be able to answer accurately because they were all top notch. But certainly, being a part of the Verizon legal department was a significant one for me.
KB: Do you want to talk a little bit about some of your activity being on corporate boards, and how that relates?
JM: Yes, as it turns out. When I left the court and went to Bell Atlantic, I was encouraged to join the board of a local bank. It was the Bank of Delaware, and ultimately became PNC Bank Delaware, after PNC acquired it. So now getting an opportunity to get some hands-on experience with issues like finance, issues like running a bank and dealing with customers, and extending loans and what have you. Obviously, that kind of position creates an additional bit of increased profile. And having done that for an extended period of time, the CEO of that bank, Cal Morgan [Calvert A. Morgan, Jr.], was friends with the CEO of a company that's a Bermuda company. The company is based in Wilmington and insures all of the nuclear power plants in this country for property damage and business interruption and a number of nuclear power stations outside the US. I joined that board, and the company is called the Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited. Again, a company based in Bermuda, but headquartered in Wilmington. So now, I'm involved in something as a corporate director, that builds on that scientific background that I had. It's particularly useful because this was a Bermuda company, the annual meetings were in Bermuda every summer. And because we also ensured nuclear power stations outside the US, I had chances to visit places like Madrid, Lisbon, Dublin, London, Paris, you name it. So, this was a very interesting period. I got some exposure and met some people in other parts of the country and other parts of the world, too. As a result of that board experience, I became aware of an opportunity to join the board of a company called SCANA, which is a New York Stock Exchange, Fortune 500 company that provided electricity and natural gas services in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. They had one nuclear power station. So obviously, you see the significance of that relationship. They were also at that time in the process of building two new nuclear power stations. So, this is a utility and that was a Fortune 500 company board, so I'm learning something about being on a board where I have some expertise that I can share. It was a chance to work with very bright people on making sure that we satisfy our corporate responsibility. And I absolutely enjoyed that.
As a result of that relationship, I was able to join a board, where I still am today, that operates the electricity grid for portions of 19 or 20 Midwestern and Western states. It’s called Southwest Power Pool. We don't own the transmission plant, but we operate it. Which means, there again, I’m involved in technology. I have to laugh because it's a company where people only will know a lot about us when the lights go out, and we want to make sure that that never happens. So, our obligation is to provide reliability. But obviously, there are very exciting things that are going on. I chair the Governance Committee now, which means I'm responsible for areas like internal audit and compliance with governmental regulations. We also oversee the market where electricity and transmission are bought and sold in real time. Most significantly my committee has oversight of, security, including cybersecurity, which is the one that keeps me up at night. So, I've been on that board now for almost 20 years and met a lot of interesting people from around the country. Hopefully, I've been able to offer some useful advice in meeting the requirements of our customers by keeping the electricity grid stable and reliable, certainly in that part of the country. And I'm also on the board of one private company in the Delaware Valley. So that's my board experience.
Another thing I'll tell you about that. For me, growing up in South Carolina I certainly had no idea of what being on a corporate board was all about. Absolutely no clue. And I share that particularly because now I have a son-in-law, who is now the Chief Marketing Officer at Snapchat, the company is Snap. He is on a corporate board. And I've been so gratified to be able to have a conversation with him and share what I know about what being a corporate director is all about. He's doing a fantastic job. Probably if he hadn't gotten the information from me, he could have gotten it from somebody else. But it's just so wonderful to be able to share, especially with a family member, about what he's doing. Obviously we don’t discuss business or board details, but is useful this to toss around issues such as board governance, shareholder relations, emerging aspects of issues like corporate responsibility, etc. And, you know, I didn't touch on this before but had you asked me, “What am I most proud of?”-- I think it's really the kind of accomplishments and the kinds of development that my wife and my three daughters have been able to enjoy, because not only have they become very significant professionally, all three of them are good human beings. My oldest daughter passed away in 2014, but needless to say, she too was one of my heroes.
JB: So, you mentioned that as part of your work, you got to travel to Bermuda and many other places in the world. I wanted to ask you if you could talk a little bit about your international travels and what it was like for you to go to all these places and see all that?
JM: Well, those trips were very excellent, because in addition to going to these countries where you get a chance to meet your counterparts in the industry, we were also able to take side trips. That trip to Lisbon was a side trip. Some of the other trips that I've taken have been to the Mediterranean a few times. I think I mentioned going to Paris, London, Dublin. And as a result of that I got a chance to see other parts of Europe, such as all the way to Amsterdam, to Berlin, to Munich, etc. So, I've seen a fair amount of Europe, as it turns out, related to being on a corporate board. And I've taken some, you know, pleasure trips. There was a period of time, where I took some youth groups to Europe. And that was interesting, because you know, you get a chance to show young people some of the sites that are over there. You’re trying to show them all these wonderful cathedrals and churches, and they're wondering “Where can I go for a disco?” So, you got to keep that element under control. [laughter] But just in terms of personal visits, here are the two best ones that I can mention that my wife and I've taken. We’ve been to the Holy Land. That was particularly interesting. And also, to South Africa. We went to South Africa, which was really a photo safari opportunity for me, I love the pictures that I was able to take on the safari runs that we made in Kruger National Park. So those have been my most significant international experiences. Trips obviously to the Caribbean were wonderful, but the trips to Europe, and the continent of Africa, and also the Middle East were the most significant.
JB: So, one of the things that you also were involved with was the US Department of Justice. You mentioned that you were overseeing the delivery of health care and mental health services in four Delaware Department of Correction facilities from 2006 to 2010. So, I was wondering if you could talk about that?
JM: I had come to the law firm Potter, Anderson & Corroon, and it turns out that there had been an exposé of defects in the delivery of mental health and medical services to inmates at the four major Delaware correctional institutions. And I don't know how I got encouraged to apply for this, since I don't have experience in the delivery of medical or mental health services. I'm not a physician, I don't have any experience as a medical practitioner. But it turns out that the US Department of Justice was looking for somebody to lead the team. So, the team consisted of a couple of internal medicine physicians, who were experienced in correctional medicine, and a couple of nurse practitioners who were also involved in these activities across the country. So, I led the team. It was my job to compile the reports that we issued every six months. And even though I was under the direct supervision of the US Department of Justice, I was also working with the Delaware Department of Justice, who obviously, were counsel for the Delaware Department of Correction. So, it was certainly something that was outside of my wheelhouse. But I was dealing with these physicians, who were absolutely brilliant, and they were doing the actual research. So, I was in and out of the correctional facilities. And of course, as you can imagine, one of my recollections of that was I was in a facility one day and again, you recall, I left the bench in 1989, and there were all of these inmates there, in their white suits starring at me. And all of a sudden, I saw an inmate who's looking at me, and looking at me. And he says, “That's Judge Martin.” And I began to realize this person probably had not seen me since the middle ‘80s. [laughs] But obviously, he recognized me probably from my role as a judicial officer. So that was one of the interesting things about having a former judge being in and out of a correctional facility. But it all worked out very well. We were able to issue our reports on a timely basis. Corrections were made in the delivery services for the State of Delaware. And ultimately, the state was able to take over some of that responsibility.
Not sure where that stands today, because again, my work ended in 2010. But I thought that was a significant contribution, from a leadership perspective, in terms of bringing about better delivery of medical and mental health services in Delaware correctional facilities. We sometimes forget about people who are in prison because, you know, they are not the stars in the community. And when funds are being allocated, that's always near the bottom of the list. And what people don't realize is, you can't warehouse these people forever, 95% of them may be out next to you on a bus, next to you on a park bench one day. They will need housing, job skills, access to medical services, socialization skills, etc. And from a criminal law perspective, and this is one of the better courses that I took at Rutgers, I remember there is something called rehabilitation. And we don't do that very well. We pay lip service to it. So, a chance to see those delivery of services, in the prison and close up was significant for me. it kind of put into perspective one of the things that the criminal law should be about, and that is rehabilitation of inmates. That's an obvious issue. But very few people are doing anything about it. Very few government entities are doing anything about it. That's enough of my bully pulpit about corrections. [laughter]
KB: Can you tell us about your time at Potter, Anderson & Corroon LLP?
JM: Yes, I came in 2005, having retired from Verizon. And I joke around with some of the partners today because I think they thought I would only be around for about two years. You know you’re on this glide path down from being a president and CEO and they figured I'd be off on the golf course fairly soon. Well, that didn't happen, probably because of my golf game is so horrible. But I got an opportunity to do mediation and arbitration on complex civil matters and some business counseling in the technology and utility field. So immediately, my desire was not only to build a practice as a neutral, for resolving business disputes and not so much for me to focus on consumer kind of matters. Most of the matters that I have been involved in are business-to-business kind of disputes, both as an individual arbitrator and as a member of a panel. But it's gone remarkably well. I have handled as an arbitrator, in fact even as a sole arbitrator, matters that were breach of contract actions involving as much as $25 billion. So, to be able to be entrusted with making decisions that are for all practical purposes, unappealable is pretty heady. And those kinds of matters are significant. I have right now a docket that includes as many matters as I can handle. I probably do more arbitration than I do mediation, but I do have some mediation matters in house right now. I have the tremendous support of my partners in the law firm as there are about 100 attorneys here now. Great staff. Also, there is the joy of working with some very, very bright associates who I can offer some advice on how to develop their careers, whether they want to become arbitrators and mediators or not. Just being in a law firm, there’s something about the intellectual ether, something about being here that I find very, very attractive. Also, we are the eighth oldest, continually operating law firm in the country. The firm was started in 1826. So, the firm has a significant reputation. Our marquee practices are corporate litigation and corporate transactional work. So, I benefit from the flavor of those kinds of practices. Obviously, because of the conflicts as a result of those practices, there are a number of matters I can't handle, but I am still enjoying working as a mediator and an arbitrator. And the firm has been very, very supportive of my practice. So, I can't say enough about the significance of that. And they allow me to have a very nice office, as you can see. [laughs]
KB: Well, obviously you have a lot of experience in the business world. I wanted to ask, I saw in your pre-interview survey that you owned a barber shop. And I know you mentioned that your father was entrepreneurial, your cousin in Ohio was entrepreneurial. So, I wanted to hear a little bit about your entrepreneurial experience.
JM: Well, you know Dr. Boyd, one of the things I've learned is you can't be afraid of taking a risk. So, my father had this barbershop, which he became the sole owner of when his previous partners passed away. It's in Columbia, South Carolina. It's about a block and a half from the statehouse. And he had developed a wonderful, I want to call it a practice, business, in terms of his clientele. So, when he passed away, my sister, who lives in Atlanta, and I decided we’d try to keep it going.—in part to honor his memory. We thought we were pretty bright folks, you know, “we can run a barber shop.”My sister, Elizabeth is an urban planner and I’m an attorney. We know about marketing and all those other nice things. You know, I spent a little time in Wharton, and I can handle this. As it turns out, the secret to that business was my father. And without him, we could not get that business to survive. From a marketing perspective, we ran all these ads on radio and TV. We were close to the University of South Carolina campus, we advertised for the students to come and get their hair cut. But for a bunch of reasons, the demographic that really benefited my father had moved to the suburbs. There were very few people in town getting the kind of services that we were offering in the shop. The people we brought in to replace him didn't provide the quality of service that we wanted. To make a long story short, this business was in the red for three solid years. So, it was a great experience. I am so happy we did it. We gave it up after three years, and we both moved on and decided that that was not for us. But that's been my experience as an entrepreneur--trying to run a barber shop in another part of the country.
KB: Can you tell us the name of the barbershop and how long your father operated it for?
JM: Service Barber Shop is the name. They previously had another location about a block away from where the shop was when my father passes. He got involved in this barbershop when he withdrew from college as a chemistry major in the segregated south. As he explained to us, wasn’t a lot he could have done with the chemistry degree during those times. From the early 1940s he was involved in a partnership with other barbers and at the end of that period, which would have been right up until the day he passed in '98, he was the sole proprietor. But it had gone through an evolution of him going in as a partner in a barber shop, and ultimately evolving to where he was the sole proprietor. In fact, the day he passed away, he left the barbershop about 11 o'clock and went home and sat in his chair and passed away right there. So that is his story in the barber shop. And that is my experience along with my sister as entrepreneurs.
JB: So, you have stayed very active with Rutgers as an alumnus, and we wanted to talk a little bit about your continued involvement with the law school.
JM: Well, I've tried to keep up with Rutgers ever since I graduated, but most significantly, when I came to my law firm, Potter Anderson and joined the recruiting committee. And also, I chaired the Diversity Committee up until the time I retired as an active partner. And part of being on the recruiting committee was I always made sure that I got the opportunity to recruit at Rutgers. have recruited a number of students who we’ve provided offers to interest them to come to Potter Anderson, some who’ve accepted our offer. In fact, about a year ago, a Rutgers lady, whom I had recruited just became a partner here. And so, I'm very excited about that. And I've also had the opportunity to be involved in some other aspects of the law school. But most importantly, I think, I was able to establish an endowed scholarship fund a few years ago. And we have mechanisms in place to make sure that there will be funding for that scholarship fund once I pass away. And I'm excited about that, because it's providing opportunity for students from disadvantaged communities, such as Camden, to get an education. I get these delightful notes from students about how they’ve benefited from those scholarship funds. And I know how important that is, and I am just so fortunate to have had the opportunity to make that commitment to the law school that obviously was significant in my career.
JB: I also noticed that your daughter Alexis Diane went to Rutgers Law. Was there a little push there?
JM: Believe it or not, no! In fact, I did not encourage that, at all. Nobody believes that, but it's true. This was totally her decision. And one of the highlights for both of us, was when I was sitting in the audience when she was getting her degree. The Dean at the time, Ray Solomon, asked me to come up on the stage and so the two of us presented her with her law degree together. And that was just a significant moment for both of us. I'm very proud of her. But there was no push on my part-- she wanted to do that. She benefited from something that I didn't benefit from. That is, growing up there certainly weren't the conversations at my kitchen table about what was happening in the law. I mean, I'm not criticizing my parents on that basis, but it just didn't happen. But she kind of grew up in an environment where we talked about things like complaints and answers, verdicts and briefs, memos and plaintiffs and defendants and all of that. So, I think that kind of planted the seed for her that after having worked for a couple of years out of undergraduate school in the finance area, she decided she wanted to go into law, and now she does compliance work. So that was totally her choice. And I'm happy she made it. And it's amazing, because we can have conversations at a very different level, from the conversations I have with other family members right now, because she is an attorney. And she's licensed in New Jersey.
KB: I wanted to ask you, I know that you already mentioned that your wife and daughters are sort of the highlight of your life. But I wanted to know if you have anything else to add about your many accomplishments and what you feel has been the biggest impact of your career?
Let me point out that my wife, Cynthia Primo Martin is very active in creating opportunities for people of color to obtain board positions, i.e., trustee particularly for non profit entities. She just published what I refer to as her first book, which is a manual for non profit boards and candidates about what board work entails. The book helps agencies avoid mistakes such as just looking for Black candidates to looking for people with needed skills who happen to be people of color. The manual also helps candidates focus on what board governance is all about and how to become valuable contributors to the entity. To date, she has placed over 500 persons of color on nonprofit boards in Delaware. Her book is called, Handbook for Nonprofit Leadership: Recruiting, Training and Engaging Trustees of Color.
JM: Let me hear the last part of what you said again, Dr. Boyd, I'm sorry.
KB: Of your many accomplishments, what do you think has been the biggest impact of your career, or your legacy?
JM: I think the biggest impact for me, has been the breadth of my experiences. Really, I tell people that I've had seven different careers. I get to merge all those different things that I've been exposed to in the work that I'm honored to do. I'm humbled when I'm asked to provide some expertise in an area because I build on all of those things that I've learned. So that's been most significant. It's what I encourage people who are inclined to develop to think about is, utilize what experiences you have. Obviously, I ran into a number of situations where by most approaches, I would not have been qualified to do that, I didn't have the classical kind of training for that particular area. But it kind of shows if you really want something, if you're willing to roll up your sleeves and not focus so much on what you haven't been exposed to,but focus on what you have been exposed to and utilize that. The classic case that always comes to mind when I say that is the Verizon experience. Because I went into that, to some extent as general counsel, but more so president, not having been involved in that industry. Back in the day with Ma Bell, people stayed there for their entire careers; I would say 85 to 90% of them did. So here I am coming in as a new kid off the block, and how can I bring value? And how can I create a team that I can lead so that they feel comfortable with me providing the vision? And the fact that I was willing to learn, roll up my sleeves, and offer what I had, was the thing that really benefited me in that situation. This was a monopoly provider, but I came into a company that was going through a transition toward being a competitive provider. So, I was able to learn with the rest of the people in the corporation who wanted to stay there, what it means to listen to customers. You know back in the telephone days, Ma Bell said, “you can have a telephone in any color you want, as long as it's black.” Well, we took a different approach at Verizon. We started actually listening to customers and doing what they wanted. So, I was bringing that part of my background into that environment, which was not only new, but it was valuable.It was what we needed to survive. So, if there's an aspect that I think—now that you’ve forced me to answer this question—that helps, it's just the ability of looking for those opportunities to build on what you have, rather than to focus on what you do not have.
KB: I wanted to ask if you had anything to say about the more social and cultural organizations you've been involved with. I know you are a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, and also involved with your church. Do you want to talk about the role of social and cultural organizations for your life?
JM: It's been a big part of it. As you may recall, I mentioned when I was in undergraduate school in Cleveland, becoming a member of Alpha Phi Alpha. I'm still a life member of the fraternity. Not as active now in local activities. But I was president of my undergraduate chapter in Cleveland, and I've been president of the graduate chapter here in Wilmington. Not as active today. I'm probably more active in the Boulé, which is Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. And I've also been in a leadership role in that organization, so more active there.
And as far as the church is concerned, I've been in leadership roles there in terms of being on the vestry at my Episcopal church. I haven't been a warden in my church, but I'm a lector, meaning I get to read the scripture on selected Sundays. I've been a member of the choir for a number of years, and I'm still active singing on a part time basis. But at some point, you have to stop and kind of catch your breath. And if there's anything that I try to do, and that my wife as well is trying to do now, is encourage young people to become active—and involved in their communities. We want to pass that mantle of leadership to young folks, and suggest to them, they can take it up and utilize it to become not tomorrow's leaders, but today's leaders. You know, I'm a little long in the tooth and I'm not going to be around very much longer. So, it's more useful for me to help other people develop leadership skills.
In fact, I've been involved in—and this is one of the things I forgot to put on my pre interview [survey]—an organization called Leadership Delaware, where this entity takes about 35 people every year and they have about 100 speakers who come to just talk to them about their background. My presentation, and I've done this I think about the last 8 or 10 years, is called “Barbershop to Boardroom.” This is because my story started in a barber shop. Of course, I forgot to point out my first job, and maybe one of the most significant, was working in my father's barber shop. Only did that for one summer when I was about 15 years old. But I learned things that have carried me all the way through my professional career, such as doing a job right the first time. Also being accommodating to customers, kind of helped me become accommodating to clients, which is what I do now. Such as just in time delivery of the goods and services that you need for your business. That's where I really got my foundation. And my father in his brilliance never wanted me to have a career in that barbershop. But by making me do that, for one summer, take my money and use it for what was appropriate for me to use it for, being involved in the maintenance of that shop were quite valuable. I never forget that the shop would close half days on Wednesday, the barbers would go fishing. They did not allow me to go fishing. I had to strip the floors of wax and repolishthe floors. Learned a little something about growing up and learning some good work habits. But that was significant for me. And in this Leadership Delaware course, “Barbershop to Boardroom,” I tried to share that with young people—when I say “young people,” these are professionals who are probably between maybe 28 and 40—to share with them what I've learned about what leadership is all about.
So that's where I've tried to really make a contribution. But other than that, I'm probably to some extent more involved in the church right now. My church now in Wilmington is the Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and Matthew. And I try to be as helpful as I can. But I will tell you, as I've gotten older, I begin to realize I don't spend as much time for myself as I need to. So, I've tried to redefine what's the appropriate balance. And at some point, I want to learn how to play golf. I just hope it's not too late.
KB: All right, Judge Martin we're going to wrap up the interview, but I just wanted to ask if you have any more reflections or anything else you want to share about your time at Rutgers Law in Camden, or just the black experience in Camden.
JM: I would only add, and this is kind of a summary, to say that was a significant part of my career, a significant part of my professional development. I wasn't able to recall all of the details about that. But I made some very useful friends, built on some significant relationships and it kind of helped me understand having a background that allows me to compete in activities that have covered this country and outside this country. Maybe it's not a good thing, but I go in a room right now I'm rarely intimidated. I may be wrong, but not intimidated. And it's because of the confidence that I got based on what I learned and what I learned how to learn at Rutgers Law School, so I think that about summarizes it.
KB: Well, thank you so much for sitting down with us and recording your story.