History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - People - Bios

Tom Martin


June 25, 1997
Primary Involvements:

Attorney and Community Activist





Thomas E. Martin was a native of Milwaukee, generally known as a brilliant man. He attended the University School of Miwlaukee before going on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University, and then attended the University of Wisconsin Law School. He began his law career in 1975, working for the Milwaukee law firm of Shellow & Shellow before becoming a Federal prosecutor with the Justice Department. His work there included assisting in the case prosecuting Milwaukee mobsters.

After some controversy at the Justice Department, Tom's life took a sharp turn: he resigned from the Justice Department and began working in what was to become clear to all was his true calling: that of service to his own people, the LGBT community, in the cause of justice in which he so strongly believed. He quickly became a prominent attorney who expended himself in untold hours of service and support to the LGBT community. He opened his own practice operating out of an office in downtown Milwaukee. Just before the time of his death, Tom was especially concerned about and involved himself in the matter of police entrapment of gays and lesbians.

Aside from his professional life, Tom was deeply involved in the GLBT community as a whole. He served on the Board of the Brady East STD Clinic; he was a strong supporting memebr of the Cream City Business Association; he gave to and supported the Cream City Foundation; he gave to ARCW both in money and time; and he supported the founding of a Community Center. He attended political fundraisers, such as for Senator Feingold.

Tom, at age 47, died on the evening of June 25, 1997, ending his life in an apparent jump from Milwaukee's Hoan Bridge. He left behind his life partner, Gary F. Schwartz, along with mother, two brothers, other relatives and numerous friends. Tom was preceeded in death by his father, Dr. Albert Martin, in April of 1996, and Tom took his father's loss hard; some think that weighed heavily on him during his last months.

A memorial service for Tom was held July 1st, 1997, at Lake Park Lutheran Church on Milwaukee's upper east side- the same church in which Tom had been baptized and confirmed. Approximately 250 of Tom's relatives and friends- including State Attorney General John Doyle and Milwaukee Alderman Paul Henningsen- filled the sanctuary to overflowing. Euologies were delivered by Tom's elder brother Robert, Tom's colleague and friend Tom Zander, and Dr. Mark Huffman, a close personal friend. Also participating were minister Rev. Judith A. Crowley, organist Gary Wood and soloist Mark Schmandt.

After Tom's death, countless "regular" lesbians and gay men came forward to recount how he had taken on their cause as their own, sometimes pro bono when it was obvious the person couldn't easily affort his reasonable fees, and also freely gave simple legal advice to those who approached him at social occasions.

Unfortunately, at least one man has come forward to the webmaster of this site to point out what is allegedly public record, and would explain Tom's sudden departure from the Justice Department. According to this correspondent:

    "I really must object to the saintly picture you've painted of Tom Martin. I'm sure he did many wonderful things in his life but he also did some not so wonderful things. The "sharp turn" his life took at the Justice Department involved me. I was the 14 year old boy that carried the shame of ruining Tom Martin's career for many years. I was never angry at Mr. Martin but I am angry at a community who finds a hero in a pedophile and yes that is what he was. I spent years in therapy after the incident. Believe it or not, there were even members of the community who found out who I was and verbally attacked ME.

    "I was visiting Milwaukee shortly after Tom's death and his partner told me that before Tom's jump from The Hoan Bridge, he was involved with another teenaged boy. His partner also apologized for the years of cruel treatment I had endured and wanted me to know that Tom never held me responsible. I felt relieved and to this day I pray for Tom Martin."

This contributor recalls prominent news stories in the early 1980's concerning Tom's involvement with minors, stating it was on the front page of The Milwaukee Journal and is public record. We have been unable to locate this media coverage yet, but will update this page as appropriate with more information.


Obit Editorial and Letter,
Wisconsin Light, vol.10 no.14

Full article announcing death,
Wisconsin Light, vol.10 no.14

Credits: bulk of information from Wisconsin Light, v10-14;
Last updated: March-2006.