Strother Martin, Jr. was born on March 26, 1919 in Kokomo, Indiana. The youngest of three children of Strother Douglas Martin, a machinist, and Ethel Dunlap Martin As a child Strother excelled at swimming and diving; he was nicknamed "T-Bone Martin" because of his diving expertise. At 17, he won the National Junior Springboard Diving Championship. He served as a swimming instructor in the United States Navy during World War II and was a member of the diving team at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He entered the adult National Springboard Diving competition in hopes of gaining a berth on the U.S. Olympic team but finished third in the competition.
He moved to California to become an actor, but worked in odd jobs and as a swimming instructor to Marion Davies and the children of Charles Chaplin. He found work as a swimming extra in several films and as a leprechaun on a local children's TV show, "Mabel's Fables." Bit parts came his way, leading to television work with Sam Peckinpah, which led to a lifelong relationship. He also found memorable roles for John Ford and by the 1960s was a familiar face in American movies. With “Cool Hand Luke” (1967) in 1967 came new acclaim and a place among the busiest character actors in Hollywood. Martin is remembered for such films as “True Grit”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Wild Bunch” (all 1969), “The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday” (1976). He worked steadily and in substantial roles throughout the 1970s and seemed at the peak of his career when he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1980.
Martin appeared in only one Euro-western: “Hannie Caulder” (1970) as Rufus Clemens.
Strother died of a heart attack on August 1, 1980.
Today we remember one of the great character actors in Hollywood history Strother Martin on what would have been his 95th birthday.
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