Gary Martin, the friendly and tenacious Washington bureau chief who covered Congress for the Review-Journal, died Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 64.
Martin, whose journalism career took him from Nogales to Miami and San Antonio to the White House, was in Southern Nevada to cover this week’s elections. His body was found inside his hotel room at Circa in downtown Las Vegas around 3:30 p.m. Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Justin Byers said his death appeared to be from natural causes.
His death comes two months after the slaying of Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German.
“Gary was beloved and admired by everyone at the Review-Journal for his work ethic, professionalism, contagious smile and relentless cheerleading for his colleagues,” Executive Editor Glenn Cook said. “His sudden passing is another devastating loss for our news organization.”
Martin’s last day was spent doing what he loved: covering a close election with national implications, then celebrating with several co-workers and eating what he said was one of the best steaks he had ever had.
Dogged Texas reporter
Before joining the Review-Journal in 2016, Martin attended Colorado State University and had a decades-long career covering politics and working as a Washington correspondent, 27 of those years for the San Antonio Express-News.
Executive Editor Nora Lopez remembered when she started at the newspaper in the 1980s, working as Martin’s teammate on the state desk covering Texas politics. He chewed tobacco, and although she thought the habit was disgusting, she bought him a spittoon for the waste. He carried it with him to each new place he moved.
“To say that he was somebody that I looked up to and whom I learned from is an understatement,” Lopez said Thursday night.
Lopez left the state desk and returned to the newspaper in 2000 as Martin’s editor. She remembered his gravely voice over phone calls from Washington.
“Gary was just a great reporter, and dogged,” she said. “He really believed in the value of journalism.”
Martin won a Sigma Delta Chi award, one of journalism’s highest honors, for leading the team of journalists at the Express-News who broke the story about the February 2016 death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in Texas.
After joining the RJ, Martin covered every big story in Washington, from attempts to open Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository to battles over national monuments.
“Gary was one of the first people I hired at the Review-Journal, and one of the best,” Deputy Managing Editor Peter Johnson said. “In his six years at the RJ he covered many of the biggest stories of the day, including two impeachments and multiple Supreme Court nominations. Aside from being a great reporter, he was a great guy and a good friend. I will miss him.”
Martin was dispatched to cover national stories outside Washington, including mass shootings in Texas and Pittsburgh.
“Gary was the consummate ‘veteran reporter.’ He knew everyone and had sources everywhere,” former Review-Journal White House correspondent and columnist Debra Saunders said Thursday. “When something terrible happened anywhere, he was the guy who could hightail his way to the epicenter and get the story, thanks to the contacts he always found. He was an amazing colleague to whom many toasts will be made.”
The Boulder, Colorado, native and Grateful Dead fan often told reporters how much he enjoyed working in the White House. Politics reporters recalled his smile, even in virtual meetings. He was remembered Thursday night by co-workers as a helpful, kind mentor who encouraged everyone around him.
He told colleagues about his wish to relive the 1960s in the United Kingdom, when Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones toured simultaneously.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.