William Martin

William Martin (Ph.D, Harvard, 1969), is the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Professor Emeritus of Religion and Public Policy in the Department of Sociology at Rice. Since his retirement from teaching in June 2005, he serves as the Chavanne Senior Fellow for Religion and Public Policy at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice. His areas of specialization include religion, criminology, and issues related to drug use and drug policy. He has been a professor at Rice since 1968.

Professor Martin's recent research and writing have focused in two areas: 1) religious fundamentalism and its impact in the political arena, in the United States and elsewhere; and 2) issues related to drugs, with particular emphasis on ways to reduce the harms associated with drug abuse and drug policy. In this connection, he has organized and chaired a series of programs at conferences at the Baker Institute dealing with these issues. These can be accessed through the Baker Institute website at http://bakerinstitute.org/

After several years of experience as a boy preacher, Bill Martin attended Abilene (Texas) Christian University, where he received B.A. (1958) and M.A. (1960) degrees in Biblical Studies and taught for one year as a graduate assistant. He then attended Harvard Divinity School, where he received the B.D. degree in 1963. In 1969, he received his Ph.D. from Harvard, in a program known as Religion and Society, a joint effort between the Divinity School and the Department of Social Relations. His dissertation, Christians in Conflict: The Role of the Clergy in Racial Conflict in Rochester, New York, was prepared under the direction of Harvey Cox, Joseph Fichter, and Thomas Pettigrew. At Harvey Cox's suggestion, he submitted an article based on his thesis to The Atlantic Monthly, which published it as the lead article in its December 1967 issue. Flushed with the pleasure of having his work read by large numbers, Bill Martin began to follow an unusual career path of publishing mainly in high-quality magazines such as The Atlantic, Harper's, Esquire, and Texas Monthly, for which he wrote a three-year monthly series of articles on Texas churches that led to his being the subject of a "60 Minutes" segment in September 1979.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Professor Martin concentrated mainly on religious broadcasters and was one of the first academicians to give serious attention to what came to be known as the Electronic Church. At the end of the 1970s, this led naturally to increased attention to fundamentalist involvement in politics and the rise of the movement known as the Religious Right. This work culminated, after dozens of articles, in his writing With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America (Broadway Books, 1996), the companion volume to the PBS mini-series of the same name and for which he served as chief consultant. A revised edition of both the book and the video series appeared in the summer of 2005. His writings on various aspects of evangelical and fundamentalist religion also led to his being given the opportunity write A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story (William Morrow, 1991), regarded as the most authoritative biography of the famed evangelist. An updated version of this book, with four new chapters, was released by Zondervan in February 2018. In addition to these historical and sociological publications, Professor Martin also wrote My Prostate and Me: Dealing with Prostate Cancer (Caddell and Davies, 1994), an account of his own successful bout with this disease. As a result, he has appeared on more than 150 radio and television programs to discuss prostate cancer and regularly counsels with men and families touched by the disease.

More recently, as noted above, Bill Martin has taken an active role in the Baker Institute, organizing and chairing programs and conferences on the impact of religion, particularly various forms of fundamentalism, on public policy, and on ways to reduce the harms associated with drug misuse and drug policy. Many of these papers are available on the Baker Institute website. (The original webcasts of the programs are also available in the video archives section of the website.)

Bill Martin received a number of teaching awards during his years as a professor, including the George R. Brown Life Honor Award, which made him ineligible for most additional awards given by Rice. At age sixteen, he decided to become a college professor as a consequence of exposure to particularly inspiring and dedicated teachers he encountered during his freshman year in college. Now in his fiftieth year at Rice, with a half-time appointment at the Baker Institute, he still regards it as a fine decision.


A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story. Zondervan, 2018.

“God’s Ambassador to the World,” in Andrew Finstuen, Anne Blue Wills, Grant Wacker, Billy Graham—American Pilgrim. Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 83-116.

“Marijuana Reform: Fears and Facts (Update),” Baker Institute Issue Brief, 2017. http://bit.ly/2u11oWn

“Drugs by the Numbers,” William Martin and Katharine Neill Harris, Baker Institute Issue Brief, 2016. http://bit.ly/2rOIzoK

Rx for U.S. Drug Policy, William Martin and Jerry Epstein, Baker Institute Policy Report 63, 2016. http://bit.ly/2t7QjXp

“War Without End,” (Re marijuana for treatment of PTSD), Texas Monthly, May 2014. http://bit.ly/2u19mij

“Texas High Ways—The Sober Case for Legalizing Marijuana,” Texas Monthly, October 2009. http://bit.ly/2u1bO8D

“The Policy and Politics of Drug Sentencing,” Texas Monthly website, May 6, 2013, http://bit.ly/2t7Thv1

“Cartels, Corruption, and Carnage in the Calderon Era,” Baker Institute Policy Report 55, January 2013. http://bit.ly/2u1bDdw

“The War on Drugs Has Failed. Is Legalization the Answer?” Baker Institute Conference Report, March 2012. http://bit.ly/2t7nA4m

“Head of the Class,” (Turkish-operated charter schools”), Texas Monthly, August 2010. http://bit.ly/2rOxMLl

“The Damage Done” (Needle Exchange Programs), Texas Monthly, April 2007. http://bit.ly/2tHsti8

“Policy with a Point: Clean Needles for Drug Addicts,” Baker Institute Research Paper, March 2007. http://bit.ly/2sDgUKl

"The Damage Done" Needle Exchange Programs. Texas Monthly, April 2007, pp. 104-111.

"Needle Exchange Programs: Sending the Right Message," James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University.

"Three Paths to Eden: Christian, Jewish, and Islamic Fundamentalisms,".

"Secular State, Religious People-The American Model".

"American Idol," Profile of Bishop T. D. Jakes, Texas Monthly, August 2006, pp. 122-125, 207-214.

"Prime Minister," Texas Monthly, August 2005. A profile of Joel Osteen, Pastor of Houston's Lakewood Church.

With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, Broadway Books, 1996/. Revised edition, 2005.

"With God on Their Side: Religion and American Foreign Policy ," Chapter 11 in Hugh Heclo and Wilfred M. McClay, Refurnishing the Public Square: Religion and Public Policy in Twentieth-Century America, (Woodrow Wilson Center/Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).

"The Christian Right and American Foreign Policy," Foreign Policy, Spring 1999, pp. 66-80.

Research Areas

Religion (fundamentalism, religion and politics), criminology, drug policy and the rise of the modern Religious Right in the U.S.


Changes or additions to profiles.rice.edu will not take effect on the Rice sub-sites until after its next refresh which occurs at 10:15am, 1:15pm, 4:15pm and 7:15pm daily. (This does not affect profiles.rice.edu)