BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Friday will mark the 50th anniversary of a landmark moment in Southeastern Conference history. In 1965, Tulane's Stephen Martin, Sr., became the first African-American student-athlete to officially compete for a SEC school.
Martin made his debut when he played as a member of the Tulane freshman baseball team at LSU on April 3, 1965. He had a sacrifice fly and a single as Tulane split a double-header with a 4-0 win and a 3-1 loss to the rival Tigers.
Martin passed away on May 14, 2013, at the age of 66. The SEC will honor Martin's place in SEC history during the championship game of the 2015 SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Ala., on May 24 with an on-field recognition and presentation. Martin's widow Brigid Cheri Martin, as well as children Stephen Jr., Nicole and Dana will be on hand to accept on behalf of Martin, Sr.
"Stephen Martin is a permanent fixture in the history of the conference," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. "We look forward to celebrating his legacy during our baseball tournament in May."
He later became the first African-American to compete in a varsity sport for any SEC school the following season when he played in his first game against Spring Hill College in the 1966 season opener for the Green Wave, which would be Tulane's final year as a member of the SEC.
"I know my dad would be deeply honored to be recognized by the SEC and the family is thrilled to accept this recognition on his behalf," Martin, Jr. stated. "One of his proudest achievements was to be on academic scholarship at Tulane and to graduate with a degree in Latin (minor in Math) while playing baseball. He valued education so much and I know if he was here that he would stress the importance of excellence in the classroom, on the field and to always carry yourself with dignity and professionalism. He would say, 'the lessons you learn on the field are just as important as the ones you will learn in the classroom and they will both pay dividends into your future for years to come.'
"Although his stats are skewed because sometimes a decision was made that it was safer for him not to play, he never allowed the circumstances around him to deter him from giving 100 percent."
Martin earned his bachelor's degree from Tulane in 1968 and earned his master's in business administration from Tulane in 1973. "He often mentioned how challenging his collegiate career was both on and off the baseball field while attending Tulane University," his wife Brigid added. "He never imagined he would be part of history and that was never his objective. His top priority was obtaining his degree and being close to home so that his parents could watch him play."
He later served in the United States Army and retired as the Chief Financial Officer for Tuskegee University in 2012.