22 Too Many Transparent Logo
Close this search box.

John Martin III

In Memory of CPT John Thomas Martin III

December 26, 1946 – May 1, 1972

West Point Class of 1968

John Thomas Martin III (“Tommy” or “Tom” to family and friends) was born on December 26, 1946 in Washington, DC to John T. and Hestlene Brooks Martin. Tom was the second eldest of their five children.

The son of an Army officer, Tom grew up in a military family and spent his early childhood years in DC, Japan, and Germany. Tom regaled his classmates with stories about his early life as an Army brat, especially in Germany and DC. They learned about his growing up in Germany and playing with Priscilla Beaulieu, later Priscilla Presley, Elvis Presley’s wife. His youngest brother, Charles, fondly remembers listening to “under the streetlamp” late-night talks between Tommy, his brother Alan, Tommy’s best friend Roderick Ross, and occasionally his Dad—great storytellers all. He watched Tommy pursue his passion for basketball on the courts of the Turkey Thicket playground in northeast DC. Tom entered St. John’s College High School in Washington, DC. During his four years at St. John’s, he was first in his class and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and second in command of the cadet corps. Other achievements included class president; president, National Honor Society Chapter; president, French Honor Society Chapter; and playing on the varsity basketball team.

This pattern of excellence followed him to West Point. As an Army brat, Tom came to West Point well prepared for the rigor which lay ahead, and his preparation stood him in good stead. He excelled in all aspects of cadet life. He had a quick smile and was always ready to help a fellow cadet. Tom played plebe basketball and then varsity basketball his yearling year, and he participated in many extracurricular activities throughout his time at West Point. Tom was always in the advanced or accelerated classes in any subject that offered the classification. He was a perennial dean’s list student, graduated as a star man, and served the Corps in numerous leadership positions: as company commander of C-4, as battalion staff officer, and as secretary of the Class of 1968. Tom graduated 33rd in his class of 706, the highest ranking ever achieved by a black graduate to that point, and he rose to the rank of cadet captain. Tom’s many achievements resulted in his participation in the Rhodes Scholar selection process.

Upon graduation from West Point into the Field Artillery, he attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he distinguished himself academically, graduating with honors and earning a master’s degree in public administration. Tom also married while at Harvard, but was divorced at the time of his death. Brother Peter McKeon, who taught Tom at St. John’s and maintained a friendship until Tom’s death, described him as a young, brilliant, handsome officer who seemed to have had the world in his grasp but, in reality, was troubled by a belief that his ascendency in the military was beyond his control. Brother Peter said that, while at Harvard, Tom became intensely interested in educational reform and, at one point, he made up his mind to leave the Army: “He [Tom] said if there was anything he’d like to do, it was completely change the education system, because it was hurting a lot of kids.” Many would agree that Tom’s thoughts on the education system still ring true today.

After Harvard, Tom deployed to Vietnam and was initially assigned to the 1st Battalion, 83rd Field Artillery, XXIV Corps, where he served as battalion motor officer and battalion assistant S-3. When the battalion stood down in May 1971, Tom was selected for duty as secretary to the General Staff, Headquarters, U.S. Army Support Command-Danang. Upon completion of his Vietnam tour in January 1972, Tom was assigned to Headquarters, III Corps Artillery at Fort Sill, OK. After completing the Lance Cadre Course, he was assigned as assistant operations officer, 1st Battalion, 12th Field Artillery.

Tom died tragically by his own hand on May 1, 1972. He was survived by his parents (both now deceased) and his four siblings: Joan M. Teaiwa, Alan G. Martin (now deceased), Theresa M. Roberson, and Charles H. Martin. Tom was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with quiet dignity in the presence of a U.S. senator and many senior ranking military officers. The words of his close friend and roommate at West Point, Jim Tanski, aptly describe the Tommy we knew, “Tom was as close to a Renaissance man as I have ever met. He excelled at academics and sports. His personality was electric. America and society in general lost a terrific mind. He easily could have beaten Barack Obama in becoming our first African-American president.

“Death ends a life, not a relationship” (Mitch Albom). Tom, you will always be a part of us.

From Washington, DC. 

Final Rest: Arlington National Cemetery

Martin John T III USA