American character actor who achieved considerable fame in the last decade of his life. A native of Kokomo, Indiana, Strother Martin Jr. was the youngest of three children of Strother Douglas Martin, a machinist, and Ethel Dunlap Martin. His family moved soon after his birth to San Antonio, Texas, but quickly returned to Indiana. Strother Jr. grew up in Indianapolis and in Cloverdale, Indiana. He excelled at swimming and diving, and at 17 won the National Junior Springboard Diving Championship. He attended the University of Michigan as diving team member. He served in the U.S. Navy as a swimming instructor in World War II. Nicknamed “T-Bone” Martin for his diving style, his 3rd place finish in the adult National Springboard Diving Championships cost him a place on the 1948 Olympic team. He moved to California to become an actor, but worked in odd jobs and as a swimming instructor to Marion Davies and the children of Charles Chaplin. He found work as a swimming extra in several films and as a leprechaun on a local children’s TV show, “Mabel’s Fables.” Bit parts came his way, leading to television work with Sam Peckinpah, which led to a lifelong relationship. He also found memorable roles for John Ford and by the 1960s was a familiar face in American movies. With Cool Hand Luke (1967) in 1967 came new acclaim and a place among the busiest character actors in Hollywood. He worked steadily and in substantial roles throughout the 1970s and seemed at the peak of his career when he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1980.
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