Martin Photo

Archie and Nancy Martin fought for civil rights on the Iowa State campus in the early 1900s.

CJ Simmons, a freshman in computer science at Iowa State, is the first descendant of Archie Martin, whom Martin Hall was named in honor of, to live in the residence hall.

“To me, it is an honor and for him [CJ],” said Karen Martin Garrison, the granddaughter of Archie Martin. “[It’s] something he will hold close to his heart, if it hadn’t been for him [Archie], he [CJ] wouldn’t be here.”

Simmons is the great-great-grandson of Archie and Nancy Martin, an African American couple who lived in Ames during the early 1900s. According to Ames History, Archie, an assistant to the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad yard manager, and Nancy, a cook for a fraternity, moved to Ames with their six children after living in Georgia.

After moving to Ames, Martin Garrison said her grandfather built his house from the ground up with his three sons, which is still standing today at 212 Lincoln Way. But Archie’s ambition did not stop there.

Martin Photo #2

The Martin family opened their home to students of color who weren't allowed to live on campus for many years.

“As their boys left and their daughters grew up, they ran into students of color because they weren’t allowed at that time on campus,” Martin Garrison said. “He housed students of color at his home for years.”

According to Ames History, students of color were not allowed to live on campus unless they lived with other students of color, which was challenging due to the lack of minority students attending Iowa State. Therefore, most students of color had to search for living accommodations off-campus.

Ames History continued to state that there were at least twenty different students of color who resided at the Martin house or even stopped by to visit. One of the students who regularly stopped in at the Martin house was Iowa State’s acclaimed African American football player Jack Trice.

According to Ames History, while still housing many students, Martin decided to take action and talk to then Iowa State President Raymond A. Pearson about changing the housing policy.

“Then Grandpa talked to him and finally got that changed,” Martin Garrison said. Even though students of color were then granted easier access to living on campus, Martin Garrison said that Archie and Nancy Martin continued to open their home to students of color for several years.

Ames History states it was Archie and Nancy’s loving and passionate determination to advocate for students of color that led the Iowa State Board of Regents to name Martin Hall after them in 2004.

“Iowa State Vice-President for Student Affairs Tom Hill noted at the dedication of the edifice, 'Martin Hall documents the presence of African Americans in the history of the institution. It recognizes the Martins for doing an outstanding job and meeting a need that wasn’t being met. They stepped up. It is very appropriate to recognize them for their contributions to Iowa State,’” Ames History said.

While Archie and Nancy Martin both passed away in the mid-1900s, the Martin legacy continues to live on. Kelly Garrison Simmons, the great-granddaughter of Archie and Nancy and CJ’s mother, said that CJ is the next in line in the Martin legacy at Iowa State.

As it turns out, according to Martin Garrison, many members of the Martin family attended Iowa State, including both herself and her daughter Kelly Garrison Simmons.

“It’s really special to all of us,” Garrison Simmons said. “Our family is just Iowa State- period.”

Garrison Simmons continued to say how proud she is to be a part of the Iowa State community. For instance, she discussed how many more minority students and faculty members there are on campus. She also emphasized how Iowa State continues to offer more diversifying classes and programs.

“There aren’t any barriers [for students of color],” Garrison Simmons said. She continued to state that she appreciates how Iowa State recognizes its past mistakes but also honors the future.

“[It’s a] result of how far we’ve come,” Garrison Simmons said.

(1) comment

Rosie Hernandez

It is amazing that this family is being recognized for what they did for the students at Iowa State and the story is being told. Although, one person can not speak for the entirety of the minority student population on campus. If you asked everyone or took a poll there would probably be at lest a few to state there are barriers for students of color. We have come far but have further to go. I hope there are many more who come to be recognized for how they helped the students of color on campus.

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