James L. Martin, 82, who retired in 1957 as District finance officer and city tax assessor, died Monday at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., following a series of strokes.
The Washington Post hailed him in an editorial shortly before he retired after 41 years with the District government as having reached ". . . the culmination of an especially distinguished career. In his most recent assignments as District finance officer and assessor he has, more than any person, provided the vast background of technical knowledge and practical experience in city tax problems that was necessary to guide a sound expansion of the revenue system."
Mr. Martin was named deputy District assessor in 1950, became assessor a year later, and was named District finance officer in 1952.
When he retired, he relinquished not only the posts of assessor and finance officer, but that of chairman of the city's real estate commission.
While assessor, he gained a reputation as an open man with a sense of humor. When a new public works program tax imposed in 1954, he illustrated its impact on the average household by using his own income and tax figures as an example.
In the case of the 1954 increase, he estimated damage to the Martin household at "roughly $88.50" a year on income of slightly more than $12,000.
The District Revenue Act of 1956 again increased taxes. A story in The Post that year noted that he again had consented "to be a guinea pig to show how the new taxes will affect a District resident." His taxes went up another $75 that year.
Mr. Martin began to work for the District in 1914 as a stenographer with the Public Utilities Commission. He was once quoted as saying that his main financial worry in those days was finding out how to live on his salary of $2.50 a day.
After World War I, he worked as administrative assistant and secretary to three engineer commissioners of the city. In 1927, he became a research assistant to the people's counsel of the Public Utilities Commission, there served as a special investigator with the District's Budget Office before joining the Assessor's Office.
Mr. Martin was a native of Washington and a graduate of the old Business High School. He earned a master's degree in political science at George Washington University, with the Army in France during World War I.
After retiring from the District government he moved to California, then returned to Bethesda in 1971.
He was a founder and past commander of Fitzgerald-Cantrell Post No. 105 of the American Legion in Bethesda. He also belonged to Hope Lodge No. 20 of the Masons.
Mr. Martin had worked in March of Dimes campaigns in Washington for 18 years, and for a time served as campaign director. He was a member of the Washington Board of Trade.
He belonged to St. John's Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase and had served as its treasurer for more than 20 years.
He is survived by his wife, Margaret W., of the home in Bethesda; a son, James L., Jr. of Fresno, Calif.; three sisters. Delphia Klinehanse, of Silver Spring Dorothy Kersey, of Hyattsville and Edna Gregg. of Florida, and three grand children.