Featured in The Boys of ’67 by Andrew Weist, Marty’s career in the Marine Corps was remarkable. Much of Marty’s time with my leadership class included giving advice and sharing stories of his leadership journey from high school through the Marines.
During the 1960s, Marty was an outstanding high school athlete in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Fayetteville’s high school was the first in the state to voluntarily integrate. Offered a contract to play baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals, captain of the football team and a member of a state championship relay team, Marty told students, when he and his high school relay teammates, who were African Americans, went into a restaurant to celebrate their championship, the restaurant owner stuck the barrel of a pistol in Marty’s ear and said, “Get those n____s out of here or I’m going to blow your head off.” With blood running down his face, Marty looked at his friends and said, “We didn’t want to eat here anyway, did we.”
Marty shared with my class a story of a football game with a neighboring high school where, upon arrival, an effigy of him hanging from a tree was set on fire. During the game, guns were being fired from the stands. After the game, his team had to be escorted off the field by the police. He and his teammates were the subject of verbal abuse beyond anything my students had faced. Suddenly, racial unrest of the 1960s was not just something they read about in history books. They saw Marty reliving it as he described it.
After his first semester at the University of Arkansas, Marty enlisted in the Marine Corps. Soon, thereafter, he was in Vietnam. Marty was given a meritorious promotion to Corporal on the battlefield. When he was accepted to Officer’s Candidate School, Marty did so without a college degree. At that time, he was the youngest officer in the Marine Corps. While serving in the Marine Corps, he completed his bachelor’s degree and three master’s degrees.
More about my dear friend and “brother,” Marty Steele, next week.
Steele’s career is the focus on an interview by the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History. See https://pryorcenter.uark.edu/interview.php?thisProject=Arkansas%20Memories&thisProfileURL=STEELE-Martin-R&displayName=Martin%20%20R.%20Steele&thisInterviewee=459.