The Honorable Senator Martin L. “Marty” Murray served as president pro tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate longer than any other Democrat, eclipsing Jeffersonian Presley Carr Lane’s previous record (eight years), established before the end of the War of 1812. At retirement, Marty claimed the second longest stint as pro tem or Speaker. Senator Martin L. Murray was born December 16, 1909, the son of Martin and Bridget Finnerman Murray of Ashley, Luzerne County. He married Catherine Doyle of the same place on June 20, 1938. Graduating from Saint Leo High School and the Wharton School of Finance, Murray embarked on a successful career as owner and operator of a Wilkes-Barre insurance agency. The future Senate pro tem assumed a high community profile as a member of numerous social, civic, and fraternal organizations.
The senator’s initial interest in politics emerged while a 16-year-old high school student. According to Murray, when he and friends asked the Ashley School Board for permission to play pick-up basketball games after hours in the Ashley school gym, the Republican-controlled school board refused the request. “Rather than sulk,” Murray recounted, “I figured the best thing to do would be to fight fire with fire … I got into politics.”
He later became a 24-year member and director of the same school board, proved instrumental in changing the law prohibiting after-school basketball in the gym, and ultimately enjoyed a meteoric rise in the Senate of Pennsylvania, serving 24 years in Harrisburg. Preceding Senate service, Murray spent 11 years in the state House of Representatives, 1945-1956, ascending to the upper house in November of the latter year, representing Luzerne’s 14th District.
After 12 years in the Democratic minority, Marty became president pro tempore in late 1970, maintaining the position for 10 years. Senator Murray served on the Executive Committee of the Joint State Government Commission, the Legislative Data Processing Committee, the State Highway and Bridge Authority, the General State Authority, and chaired the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. He served on the State Public School Building Authority, State Council of Civil Defense, Transportation Assistance Authority, Pennsylvania Higher Education Facilities Authority, and the Susquehanna River Basin Advisory Commission. His bills advocated tougher strip-mining laws, programs for the poor, equitable funding for public schools, and an increase in the number of state scholarships. Murray supported Governor Shapp’s tax programs and served as the governor’s chief advocate for executive initiatives, except his stand on abortion. Murray opposed legalized abortion, no matter the justification, while the governor assumed a firm position in favor of a woman’s right to choose without state interference. Previously, Murray backed the Public Employees Relations Act, allowing teachers and other public employees to engage in strikes and collective bargaining; the Fleming Senate’s establishment of the Department of Environmental Resources, and under Tony DiSilvestro, Murray championed hard fought passage of the fair housing and fair educational opportunities provisions of the 1961 state Human Relations Act. He voted for school district consolidation; the Wage, Payment, and Collection Act; and lobbyist registration.
He backed the project 70 referendum, the County Records Act, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency Act of 1963, the establishment of the State Board of Education, and the 1963 Business Corporation Act. Senator Murray represented his party as a 1964, 1968, and 1972 delegate to the Democratic National Convention, was a member of the 50-state National Legislative Rules Committee; the Legislative Reference Bureau, 1965-1966; treasurer of the Luzerne County Democratic Committee for 12 years, and a member on the executive committee for 20 years.
The Honorable Martin L. Murray passed away on July 1, 1990.