Martin was born on September 18, 1916. After graduation from the University of New Hampshire in 1942, he studied at the University of Michigan, where he earned a Master's degree in 1945, and a doctorate in history in 1949. James J. Martin was an exceptionally discerning and productive historian, gifted with an impressive memory and a keen and skeptical eye. During the intellectually barren decades of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, he was one of the few American scholars who kept alive the flame of authentic independent historiography. He knew personally the outstanding revisionist scholars of that era, including Harry Elmer Barnes, Charles Tansill and Francis Nielson. His teaching career, which spanned 25 years, included teaching posts at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb), San Francisco State College, Deep Springs College, and Rampart College.