December 5, 1901
Thomas Martin was admitted to the Alabama State Bar on this day in 1901. Perhaps Alabama’s premier businessman of the 20th century, Martin was associated with Alabama Power for 33 years, serving as general counsel, president and chairman of the board. Martin’s entry into the law field came naturally. His father, Logan Martin, studied at Cumberland Law School. In 1889, the family moved to Montgomery after Gov. Thomas Seay appointed Logan Martin attorney general. After studying at the University of Alabama, Martin’s career began at his father’s law firm, and in 1903 he was appointed as an assistant attorney general by Attorney General Massey Wilson. Wilson served as Martin’s mentor and introduced him to the legal issues of dam construction. They worked on several cases that paved the way for hydro power development in the U.S. In 1911, Martin was retained by engineer James Mitchell, who wanted to build a dam on the Coosa River. The next year, Mitchell bought out Alabama Power owner William Patrick Lay, who owned the rights to the dam site. Mitchell began construction, completing the dam in 1913. Lay Dam began operations in 1914, the first step in building an electrical system in Alabama. Mitchell eventually folded his various companies into Alabama Power, and Martin served as the company’s general counsel from 1912 until Mitchell’s death in 1920. Martin succeeded Mitchell as company president and began a rural electrification program that same year. Martin went on to become a utilities executive, economic recruiter, research promoter and booster for Alabama.
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