The Late Mahlon Martin once said, “What’s scary is when you’re first AND the last.” Mr. Martin was speaking of his life experience as the First African-American to hold various positions of authority in state government and in the private sector. Mr. Martin was a first in many instances. As City Manager of Little Rock in 1980, he was the first black to manage Arkansas’ largest city. And he was one of the youngest people to lead a major city in the United States. In his position, Martin administered an annual budget exceeding 32 million and directed more than 1,300 employees.
Mr. Martin left that position to take the highest administrative appointment of any African-American in state government in modem times. He was then, Governor Bill Clinton’s Department of Finance and Administration director. When he resigned that position in 1989 to join the Rockefeller Foundation, the Legislature and Governor Clinton honored him with farewell speeches. “I’ve been privileged, Mr. Martin said, to hear my funeral preached before I leave this earth.”
When he left this life seven years later in 1995, Mr. Martin had managed to endear himself to the everyday citizen and to those with whom he worked, to give his best as a public servant. Gov. Jim Guy Tucker described Mr. Martin as a great leader and a great example for every person in this state. Arkansas legislators described him as one of the nicest, most competent persons who ever walked the capitol hallways. He had a difficult childhood, but made a success of himself, and was loved by everybody. Others said Mahlon Martin’s legacy of excellence will be long remembered by those who loved him, and by those who were fortunate enough to know him.