Martin was born in Akron, Ohio, and grew up on a farm in nearby Bath Township. He attended Hiram College, where he graduated summa cum laude. His graduate studies took place at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he earned both M. A. and Ph.D. degrees in United States History. After an eleven-year teaching stint at Rutgers University where he moved through the ranks from Assistant Professor to Professor, while also serving briefly as Vice President for Academic Affairs, he moved with his family to Texas, where he taught for more than thirty years at the University of Houston, finishing his teaching career there as the Hugh Roy and Lilli Cranz Cullen University Professor of History.
In 2013-2014, Martin held the James Rees Senior Research Fellowship at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, located at Mount Vernon, Virginia. During the spring semester of 2016, he taught at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, serving as the Mark W. Clark Distinguished Visiting Professor of History. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Martin served as the Charles Boal Ewing Visiting Professor of Military History at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Over the years, Martin has spoken at a variety of institutions and conferences, including the Army War College, the Naval War College, West Point, Marist College, Hiram College, Mount Vernon, the Society of the Cincinnati in Washington, D. C., and such annual conference gatherings as those held by America’s History, LLC, in Williamsburg, VA, and Fort Plain Museum in upstate, New York, among others. Recently, Martin has served on the Fort Ticonderoga Association Board of Trustees and the Fort Plain Museum Board of Trustees. He has also been active as a historian consultant to the Oneida Indian Nation of New York.
James Kirby Martin and Granddog Washington