The James D. (Jim) Martin story will air on Alabama Public Television on Thursday at 9 p.m. and again on Thursday, January 18 at midnight.

It's the story of an Alabama vital veteran of World War II, a successful oil businessman, a founding father of the Alabama Republican Party, a congressman, an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate and a founder of "Forever Wild" as state conservation commissioner.

Major Jim Martin commanded an Army artillery brigade. In the closing days of World War II, he was the first American to discover a Nazi concentration camp and observe the worst of what man can do to his fellow man. The next day, he served as a guide for Allied Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and other top U.S. generals who needed to see the concentration camp. 

"Forever Wild – The James D. Martin Story" is a portrait of Martin's life, his political work and achievements as director of Alabama's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

One of Martin's biggest successes in life was winning the hand of Miss Alabama 1955, Patricia Huddleston. She outlived Martin, who died at age 99 in 2017.

In the early 1960s, Martin was one of the first Republicans to seriously challenge the lock on Alabama politics held by the Democrat Party, nearly defeating incumbent Lister Hill in the race for the U.S. Senate in 1962.

Martin was elected to Congress in Alabama's Goldwater straight ticket coattails in 1964. He served one term in Congress from 1965-1967.

Martin gave up what was considered a safe congressional seat to make a longshot run for Governor of Alabama in 1966. He was the Republican nominee against Democrat nominee Lurleen Wallace, the wife of Gov. George Wallace. Mrs. Wallace handily won.

Although Martin was unsuccessful in later political campaigns, he continued to have an important impact on state politics.

After Guy Hunt of Holly Pond was elected governor in 1986 as the first Republican governor since Reconstruction, he appointed Martin as commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources. In that role, Martin expanded offshore drilling and increased royalties to the state for oil pumped from Alabama's coastal waters, and he founded Alabama's "Forever Wild" program to preserve wild areas for the public to enjoy. 

As longtime radio broadcaster J. Holland of Gadsden said, "What Jim Martin did then is paying off today and will continue to pay off far into the future."

Martin died at age 99 in 2017. He was the oldest living congressman, incumbent or retired.

If you cannot watch the broadcast live on APT, you can view the archive here.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.