January 16, 2017 marks the 80th birthday of Blanche Martin – an academic all-American MSU football running back (1956-1959). The 1957 Spartan Football team were national champions, one of six seasons in the team’s history in which they held that distinction, and thanks in no small part to Martin. During that season, he scored 7 touchdowns and ran for over 600 yards. But Martin is known for so much more than being a great Spartan running back.
Dr. Blanche Martin (DDS, University of Detroit Dental School, 1967) was elected to the Michigan State University Board of Trustees in 1969, the first African American to hold the position. He chaired the Board from 1974 to 1976, and served on the board until 1984. Dr. Martin also made great strides in improving conditions for minorities at Michigan State, increasing minority hiring and enrollment. Dr. Martin was also a co-founder of the College of Urban Development at Michigan State University.
A video of the October 26, 1957 game film against Illinois is available for viewing online at the MSU Archives & Historical Collections’ site for digital collections, On the Banks of the Red Cedar: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-55F/msu-football-vs-illinois-1957/. Other film reels from the 1957 season are available at the Archives, including most of the other games from that season, a highlights reel, and an “old timers” game reel!
If you would like to help preserve Spartan history and get this footage preserved and digitized for online access, please consider donating to the MSU Film and Video Preservation Fund (https://www.givingto.msu.edu/gift/?sid=1484). More information about the Film Fund can be found here: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/msu-archives-preserves-spartan-history/.
Written by Matthew Wilcox, Audiovisual Archivist
Editor’s note: Dr. Blanche Martin was interviewed for MSU’s Sesquicentennial Oral History Project in 2000. The recording and transcripts are available on our On the Banks of the Red Cedar website: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/sohp/Object/2-D-E3/blanche-martin/.