Honoring the Man Who Put Death Tax on the Political Map

A standing-room-only crowd jammed the Liaison Hotel on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on July 15 to honor James L. Martin for his 50 years of political activism.  Martin has long been the out-spoken president of 60 Plus, a seniors association that has been the premier force behind the drive to abolish the estate tax. Much of the modern movement against the tax is due to Martin, who has mobilized tens of thousands of angry seniors through his association, campaigned tirelessly for congressional opponents of the tax and coined the phrase that captured its essence: “death tax.”


Referring to his days after graduating from Yale in 1968 when he was a staffer on the winning U.S. Senate race of conservative Republican Ed Gurney in Florida, George W. Bush, in a filmed tribute recalled how he was hired by Gurney’s right-hand man Jim Martin. 

He and Martin became good friends, said the 43rd President, “and I gave him a nickname—Buddha—because he gave me such wise counsel—and because he had a wider girth than he does now.”

Bush, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and House GOP Leader John Boehner, both of whom also filmed salutes, and many friends and political allies warmly recalled the other hats Martin has proudly worn: as a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, newspaper reporter, top aide to Gurney, a vice president of Richard Viguerie’s direct mail company, and head of his own advertising agency

As indefatigable as he has been in his professional and political roles, Martin is also a proud father of seven and grandfather of 15, noted 60 Plus’s national spokesman Pat Boone (who also paid tribute to the honoree’s proud wife Mary Lou by harmonizing a few bars of “Hello, Mary Lou.”).

Others who saluted Jim Martin’s eventful career included Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist and Rep. Joe Wilson (R.-S.C.), who actually drew the biggest ovation of the evening when introduced by emcee Colin Hanna, who said, “He speaks the truth,” referring to Wilson’s now-celebrated shout of “You lie!” at Barack Obama).

The speakers all cited Jim Martin’s well-known loyalty to friends and knack for staying in touch with people, regardless of what position he was in or where he was located.  Many who consider him a friend warmly agreed with the remarks of decorated Vietnam War veteran Bob Martin, who said that being Jim’s younger brother brought to mind the words of baseball great Lou Gehrig:  “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”