Louella Baker Martin
LBM Investments and Four Star Ranch
Louella “Lou” Martin is one of those people who is endearing to everyone she encounters.
She has been described as kind, gracious, beautiful, down-to-Earth and, most of all, generous. Her philanthropy and volunteer service in Fort Worth is legendary.
A fourth-generation Fort Worthian, Martin comes from a family that regards community service as a cornerstone of its tradition.
“My great-grandmother started the first Meals on Wheels,” Martin said. “She delivered meals to poor families by horse and buggy.”
Martin carries on that tradition supporting numerous organizations, especially those that serve children, education, health care and the arts.
The generosity of Martin and her husband, Nick Martin, kicked off a campaign to build a new 44,000-square-foot student center at Texas Wesleyan University. The Nick and Lou Martin Center was built at a cost of $20.3 million and is the single largest capital improvement project in the recent history of a school that was founded in 1890.
University President Frederick G. Slabach said the center is the “heart of our campus, both physically and in spirit.
“Lou Martin is a Fort Worth treasure and a dear friend to Texas Wesleyan University,” Slabach said. “Her selfless generosity toward our students spans many decades and has transformed our university.”
Texas Wesleyan is close to Martin’s heart because her grandfather, James Baker, served on the board from 1895 to 1912 and her father served on the board from 1945 to 1969. Martin has served on the university’s executive board since 1994 and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in 2003.
Equally dear to her heart is Cook Children’s Medical Center and the former Fort Worth Children’s Hospital, where she served on the board for 36 years. And for 40 years, she has also volunteered with Jewel Charity, the fundraising organization for Cook Children’s that supports uncompensated care costs.
Martin is currently president of Jewel Charity, a position that provides her the opportunity to preside over the first Jewel Charity Ball to be held in the new Dickies Arena.
The Martins established the Nicholas & Luella Martin Charitable Fund at the North Texas Community Foundation to support Texas Wesleyan, Cook Children’s and many other organizations, including the Fort Worth Zoo, The Cliburn, Texas Ballet Theater, United Way, the Red Cross, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tarrant County, the Museum of Science & History, Fort Worth Country Day, All Saints’ Episcopal School and Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center.
Among her volunteer activities, Martin organized the Women’s Auxiliary of the Boys & Girls Clubs.
The many boards she has served on as chair and or in other leadership roles include the Fort Worth Opera Ball, the Fort Worth Heart Ball, the YWCA (now the Center for Transforming Lives), United Way, Tiffany Circle of the American Red Cross Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Symphony, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT).
Martin’s roots in Fort Worth trace back to 1870, where her great-grandparents, migrating westward from Tennessee after the Civil War, ended up settling here because Fort Worth was the end of the train line.
Charles and Louella Bales owned two homes on Belknap Street in Fort Worth, of which one is still standing.
Through her great-grandmother’s involvement with the Fourth Street Methodist Church, the predecessor of First United Methodist Church, she befriended James Baker, an immigrant from England who “earned the first college degree awarded in Texas,” Martin said.
Baker moved to Fort Worth after graduating from Sam Houston Normal Institute, a teachers’ college and precursor to Sam Houston State University. Baker eventually married the Bales’ daughter, Kate.
To earn a living, Baker began ordering seeds from England to establish Baker Brothers Nursery, the “first and largest nursery in the Southwest.”
Because the nursery required a lot of land to cultivate trees and shrubs, the Baker family acquired large holdings to plant seedlings.
Martin’s father, Edward Lawrence Baker, worked in the family business, but started developing land for homes after World War II. He was the earliest developer of Richland Hills, she said.
Among the family’s real estate holdings was a downtown office building at Houston and West 7th streets, which was formerly the First National Bank of Fort Worth.
Martin’s father bought the building and renamed it the Baker Building. The building was later acquired by Bob Simpson and it became part of XTO Energy’s holdings. The building is now named after Bob Simpson.
Martin grew up in the Riverside area and attended Oakhurst Elementary School. After the family moved, she attended McLean Middle School and R. L. Paschal High School.
In her youth, she took ballet lessons and performed in the Musagette Follies at the Will Rogers Auditorium. She attended several colleges: Christian College in Columbia, Missouri, the University of Texas and Texas Christian University. She married her high school sweetheart after college and began a family.
She has three grown children: David Parker, Julie Parker McBride and Cynthia Lynn Parker Macdonald. She also has 11 grandchildren and three-great-grandchildren.
She and Nick Martin have been married 42 years. Martin was an avid tennis player, then took up golf to be able play alongside her husband. Martin has real estate investments and holdings. Her husband is also involved in the real estate industry.
Martin was raised around horses because her family owned several ranches in the Fort Worth and Parker County area. Yet, Martin said, she has always been cautious around horses.
The Martins have travelled worldwide.
– Marice Richter
What advice would you give young women rising to a position of prominence?
Get to know people you meet and keep in contact, “being there” for others, listen to their ideas, follow-up, have a sense of humor.
You could choose to spend your time many ways: why do you choose to spend it the way you do?
I have a strong desire to help the less fortunate and feel grateful for my many blessings. It is important for each of us to try to make a difference.
Who is the most significant role model and/or mentor in your life?
My mother and father, Maxine and Edward Baker.
What book, movie, TV series, or play influenced you growing up? Why?
Hello Dolly and Funny Girl. Dolly Levi – a widow in her middle years who has decided to begin her life again. I admired Dolly for staying upbeat about life (among other things), she waited for Horace to want to marry her and also a sign from her late husband that it was all right for her to do so. I’m reminded that I can’t figure out what God wants me to do, though I’ve prayed for guidance. One answer is to ask for clarity and then trust you will get it when the time is right.
What would you like for us to know that we might now know to ask?
Each day is a gift and challenge. I feel lucky for my heritage and growing up in First Methodist Church. I am proud to be fourth generation in Fort Worth. The reason I value my connection in history is it brings meaning in life today.