CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- He's one of the state's best-known activists, a familiar protester and prolific contributor to the newspaper editorial page.
A coal miner's son and a passionate environmentalist, he devotes much of his remarkable energy to saving West Virginia mountains from the ravages of coal mining.
Rising from his roots, he was an honor student at West Virginia University, where he earned a degree in chemical engineering. As West Virginia's first Peace Corps volunteer, he spent two years teaching high school chemistry in Nigeria. He recently wrote a book about that special time.
Now he's writing a book about his tumultuous crusade to reform the politically driven Lincoln County school system. He taught for 22 years at Duval High School.
Julian Martin will need more than two books to cover the colorful story of his 76-year life. Chapters mount daily. After the interview, he hurried off to a protest rally at the Capitol. Busy. Busy. Busy.
That soapbox doesn't stay idle for long.
"I was born on Big Coal River, eighth generation. My dad was an underground coal miner. He had his eye put out in the mines. My mother's dad was in the Battle of Blair Mountain, one of my favorite brag things.
"My dad and grandpa were strong union people. I heard a lot of discussion about not taking anything off anybody. My dad liked to say, 'Nobody is better than you.' He wasn't taking a backseat to anybody. So I guess I inherited that spirit.
"I went to first grade at Emmons Grade School on Coal River, a one-room school. I couldn't read. That was detected in second grade when we moved to St. Albans. I finally picked it up. By the time I was in fourth grade, I was a straight-A student. I graduated from St. Albans High School.
"One of the things I am proudest of is that I made the football team. They didn't even think I was good enough to play, but I made all-conference. That's because we had a coach, Sammy LeRose, who was a saint.
"I was always aware of environmental stuff. I can remember going for a hike with a friend in high school, and he threw down a chewing gum wrapper. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. He said, 'Why did you do that?' I said, 'Why did you throw it down?'
"When every house in your community turns brown, you know there is something bad wrong with the environment. One day, the air smelled like rotten eggs. Every house that had lead-based white paint turned brownish. That was hydrogen sulfide reacting with the lead paint.
"We lived right on the Kanawha River, and here comes a flotilla of dead carp, all killed by chemicals dumped upstream. There was a sewer pipe going into the river, and you could see human waste going right out into the river. You had to be living under a rock not to know the environment was taking a hit.
"When I was 14, I wrote a letter to the editor about the Coal River. One day, the riverbanks turned black. They were washing coal at the mine site, and the dirty water was going into the river. After that letter, I was famous in our community for a short time.
"The summer before I went to college, I sprayed the power and telephone right-of-way with a component of Agent Orange. We sprayed that on anything that had bark. Anything with bark grew so fast inside that it busted the bark, and in a day and a half, everything with bark was dead. I would go home every day soaked in Agent Orange. That must be why I'm so crazy.
"I made a couple hundred dollars on that job. I got through my first year at WVU on $700. Tuition was only $43 a semester.
"There was no money. Dad was unemployed twice in the '50s. Mother put $10 a week in the bank. I didn't even have a heavy coat in Morgantown. I hated that place. But I stuck it out. I have three siblings, and we all got college degrees, the first in our family.
"I majored in chemical engineering. It was easy then to get a chemical engineering job. I chose American Cyanamid at Willow Island because they had a great big yard in front of their plant. I had that sensitivity to my environment.
"I did basic training in the Air Force and was in the Reserves for eight years. When I went back to Willow Island, they transferred a bunch of us to Connecticut to start a new plant, a rare opportunity for a young engineer. I was the boss. I had a shift of men all old enough to be my dad.