Copyright notice

This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page

Holt, Martin Hicks

by Ralph Hardee Rives, 1988

9 Jan. 1855–26 Nov. 1914

Engraving of Martin H. Holt published in 1908. Image from Internet Archive.Martin Hicks Holt, educator, lay leader in the North Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant church, and legislator, was the son of John Foust and Louisa J. Williams Holt and a great-nephew of the antebellum North Carolina educator and statesman, Archibald D. Murphey. The family on his paternal side pioneered in cotton manufacturing in the North Carolina piedmont.

After attending Oak Ridge Institute in Guilford County and Kernersville High School, Holt received a bachelor's degree from The University of North Carolina and a master of arts degree from Western Maryland College. For a time he also studied law. He began his teaching career at Kernersville in 1872; later he taught at the Tabernacle High School and was a salesman for a wholesale grocery business. In January 1879, Holt joined his brother, John Allen, at Oak Ridge Institute, which they purchased in 1884. The brothers were associated as teachers and joint proprietors of the institute for about thirty-five years. Martin Hicks was junior principal and head of the academic department. As a result of their strong religious convictions, they made a standing offer of free tuition to Methodist Protestant ministerial students and to the sons of Methodist Protestant ministers in the North Carolina Conference.

In 1893 Holt was a member of the North Carolina General Assembly, where he served as chairman of the committee on education and as a member of several other committees including finance and corporations. He was responsible for raising the tax rate for public education and was instrumental in increasing the appropriations for the educational and charitable institutions of the state. Holt became an initial director of the North Carolina Deaf and Dumb School at Morganton and served continuously for many years. From 1893 to 1897, he was a member of the board of trustees of The University of North Carolina. He also was a delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Protestant church in 1888 and 1912.

Holt was considered to be "a speaker and a debater of more than ordinary ability . . . of poetical temperament, and . . .[one who delighted] in [the] study of the classics." In 1878, he married Mary A. Lambeth of Guilford County; they became the parents of two sons and a daughter. One son, John Harvey, taught for some years at Oak Ridge Institute. Holt was buried in Oak Ridge.


Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, vol. 7 (1908).

Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of North Carolina, 1887–1888 (1889), 1896–'97 and 1897–'98 (1898).

J. Elwood Carroll, History of the North Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church (1939).

Nolan B. Harmon, ed., Encyclopedia of World Methodism, vol. 2 (1974).

Information from Colonel Zack L. Whitaker (Oak Ridge Institute).

Journal of the North Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church (1910, 1915).

Prominent People of North Carolina (1906). 

Additional Resources:

Albright, James W. Greensboro, 1808-1904 : facts, figures, traditions, and reminiscences. Greensboro, N.C. : Jos. J. Stone & Company. 1904. (accessed November 13, 2013).

Laws and Resolutions of the State of North Carolina Passed by the General Assembly at its Session of 1891 Begun and Held in the City of Raleigh. Raleigh, NC: Josephus Daniels, 1891. (accessed November 13, 2013).

"Oak Ridge Institute." N.C. Highway Historical Marker J-36, N.C. Office of Archives & History. (accessed November 13, 2013).

Raper, Charles Lee. The Church and Public Schools of North Carolina: A Historical Study. Greensboro, NC: Jos. J. Stone, 1989. (accessed November 13, 2013).

Stockard, Sallie Walker. The history of Guilford County, North Carolina. Knoxville, Tenn. : Gaut-Ogden Co., Printers. 1902. (accessed November 13, 2013).

Image Credits:

E. G. Williams & Bro. N. Y. "Martin H. Holt." Engraving. Biographical history of North Carolina from colonial times to the present. vol. 7. Greensboro, N.C.: C.L. Van Noppen. 1908. (accessed November 13, 2013).

Origin - location: