MARTINEK, JOSEPH (23 March 1889-21 March 1980), was a CZECH socialist who enjoyed a long and varied career as a newspaper editor, labor organizer, gymnastics instructor, author, and poet. Dedicated to socialism and Czech nationalism, he was an important leader locally, nationally, and in his native Czechoslovakia. Martinek was born in Podebrady, a small town east of Prague, to Jan and Anna (Borecka) Martinek. Trained as a metalworker, he worked in Germany for three years before immigrating to the United States in 1909. Settling with relatives in Cleveland, Martinek worked as a lathe operator and took courses in sociology at WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY. He soon became involved in the labor movement and with Czech organizations. He was an early member of the WORKERS GYMNASTIC UNION, a Czech-American athletic and political organization, and served as a gym instructor for the group. He founded the organization's summer camp southeast of Cleveland in 1925, which eventually became the cooperative village of Taborville. Martinek was a valued speaker at labor meetings since he was able to speak German, Slovak, Russian, and Spanish in addition to Czech and English. In 1912, he became editor of AMERICKE DELNICKE LISTY, the only Czech-language socialist newspaper ever published in the United States, and edited other Czech-American publications until 1934. Martinek was the president of the Workingman's Cooperative, a chain of seven cooperative grocery stores, from 1918 until 1934 and served as director of the Cooperative league of America. Actively involved in politics, Martinek was part of the organization that carried Cuyahoga County for Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin in the 1924 Republican Party presidential primary. He also ran unsuccessfully on the Socialist Party ticket for county commissioner in 1926, state representative in 1928, and city council in 1929 and 1933.

Martinek's public work in Cleveland's Czech community and his advocacy for an independent Czechoslovakia reflected his abiding commitment to Czech nationalism. During WORLD WAR I, Martinek fought with the Czechoslovak Foreign Legion in Siberia. He stayed briefly in Japan after the war but soon returned to Cleveland. He returned to Czechoslovakia in 1934 to work as editor of the daily labor newspapers, Delnicke Listy and Pravo Lidu. Active in the anti-Nazi movement, Martinek was forced to flee his native country in 1938 following the German annexation of the Sudetenland, the western regions of Czechoslovakia. After his return to the United States, he served as executive secretary of the Czechoslovak National Council in Chicago, Illinois, from 1939 until 1945. In 1947, Martinek moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he focused on his writing career. He published six books of poetry between 1944 and 1968 and wrote scripts for Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America, radio programs broadcast in Europe. Martinek married Maria Fiserova on December 1, 1914. She passed away in 1963. He died in Arizona on March 21, 1980 and was cremated. He was survived by his three children, Joseph, Jaroslav, and Hana, and 14 grandchildren.

Frank Bardoun Papers, WRHS.

Article Categories