Former AAFA President Larry Martin Dead at 74

Lobbyist helped the apparel industry transform into a global force.

Larry Martin, who helped bring together three Washington lobbying groups to form the American Apparel & Footwear Association, died at home last week from lung cancer that was inoperable due to a heart condition. He was 74.

This story first appeared in the May 21, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Martin led the American Apparel Manufacturers Association, which in 2000 combined forces with Footwear Industries of America and The Fashion Association to form the AAFA.

He served as president of the group until his retirement in 2001 and over his career worked on a number issues that helped create the modern global apparel landscape, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the dismantling of a wide-ranging system of apparel quotas.

“Larry’s tenure at the helm of the association, following several years as AAMA’s director of government relations, was marked with profound organizational and industry changes,” said Kevin Burke, who took the reins from Martin and is president and chief executive officer of the AAFA. “Through his advocacy and leadership, Larry made many lasting contributions to the industry in the areas of trade policy and corporate social responsibility.”

Born in Urbano, Ohio, Martin attended Kent State and then went to work as a reporter with United Press International before joining the Peace Corps and spending two years in Liberia, according to his wife, Betty.

After another stint in journalism, Martin became chief of staff to Senator J. Caleb Boggs (R., Del.). He ran Boggs’ reelection campaign in 1972, which the senator was expected to win easily but ultimately lost to a youthful future vice president, Joe Biden.

Martin found his way into lobbying for the fashion industry and rose up the ranks.

Martin hired and served as a mentor to Stephen Lamar, now the AAFA’s executive vice president. “He was always looking for the consensus position,” Lamar said. “He was always trying to find a place where everybody could come together. He had a real knack for taking a complex problem and reducing it to two or three things.”

Ted Sattler, an apparel sourcing and sustainability consultant who spent 25 years at what is now known as PVH Corp., remembered Martin as “hardworking and serious.

“He was extremely helpful, was well known on the Hill, got an audience with anyone you wanted at any time,” Sattler said.

After stepping down, Martin didn’t linger in the industry.

“When you retire in a position like that, it’s time to move on, the new guy takes over,” his wife said. “You kind of have to get out of the way, and he appreciated that and came down here and had a great attitude.”

Martin developed heart troubles in 2005, which slowed him down some but didn’t prevent the pair from traveling. In recent years he also worked as a high school substitute teacher and at a free health clinic.

Martin is survived by his wife, who said her husband loved living in Washington and later in Weems, Va.

A memorial service will be held on May 28 at the Historic Christ Church in Weems.