W.R. Martin

The son of a prominent Alabama family, Wolsey Randall Martin earned his law degree at the age of 19 from the University of Virginia and came to Fort Smith to practice law in partnership with B.H. Tabor. That partnership soon dissolved, but Martin formed the second, longer lasting firm of Winchester and Martin with Col. Thomas P. Winchester. It lasted from 1887 until 1920. Winchester and Martin engaged exclusively in business law, and the firm was very active in the commercial and industrial life of the city.

In 1920, Martin retired from his law practice to devote himself entirely to the development of the natural gas business here. Before quitting Winchester and Martin, he became president and general manager of Wildcat Oil and Gas Co., which was organized in 1915. Wildcat was founded after the discovery of natural gas in the Kibler field in Crawford County. The Kibler, Williams and Alma fields were developed in the years after 1915 by companies owned by Martin, the late W.J. Echols, the late Thomas L. Daily, E.F. Creekmore and A. Graham Williams Jr. of Fort Smith. Gas rates for industy were initially fixed at 4 cents per thousand cubic feet of gas and for residential use at 25 cents per thousand.

Martin was afflicted by a lasting paralysis on Nov. 22, 1924, sold all his gas interests in 1927 and devoted himself to just a few enterprises. In 1930, he built a home at the highest point on Mount Gayler and spent much of his time there. At his death on Jan. 6, 1938 of "functional pneumonia," Martin was president of Ross Finance Co., vice president of Ross Motor Co. and a president of Park Hill Realty Co.

Source: "Widely Known Business Man Dies At Home," Fort Smith Times Record, Jan. 6, 1938, p. 1.