On this day in Alabama history: Pulitzer Prize winner Harold Eugene Martin was born

On this day in Alabama history: Pulitzer Prize winner Harold Eugene Martin was born
Cullman County native Harold Eugene Martin (1923-2007) was a journalist whose investigation into prisoner abuse in Alabama earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1970. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Samford University Special Collections)

Oct. 4, 1923

Born on Oct. 4, 1923, Harold Eugene Martin lived in Cullman County and later moved to Birmingham. He was inspired to take up his career during his senior year in high school when he got a job as a copy editor at The Birmingham News. When he sold his first article to Parade magazine, Martin rewarded himself by buying a black poodle.

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, Martin returned to The Birmingham News. He attended Howard College (now Samford University) and received a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

In 1963, he left The News and became publisher of the Montgomery Advertiser and Alabama Journal, and then took on the role of editor in 1967.

Three years later, he investigated and wrote a 12-month series that revealed how large pharmaceutical companies were conducting drug-testing experiments on state prison inmates without their consent. The series created a huge stir and led to prison reform. It also won Martin journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize.

Martin went up against political giants like Gov. George C. Wallace, often criticizing the Alabama governor for his segregationist policies during the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1980, Martin left Alabama and switched to the business side of journalism. He became president of Jefferson-Pilot Publications, a publishing company with headquarters in Beaumont, Texas, that operated newspapers in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma.

Martin was also a Baptist layman. He served on the board of directors of the Alabama Baptist, the state denominational weekly newspaper, from 1964-1973, and was a director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for 20 years.

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

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