Judith Martin told us what really happened


The late Judith Martin, a University of Minnesota geography and urban studies professor, was one of our “go to” people when we needed help understanding Twin Cities development.

Here she is in 1998, explaining to former MPR reporter William Wilcoxen how riverfront development happened the way it did in the Twin Cities:

“If you look at a place like Minneapolis where, y’know, the first people that came here looked at those falls, and nobody said, “Parkland!” – everybody said, “Opportunity to make money!” That’s what you do there. You park your flour mills and sawmills along the riverfront, and nobody thinks twice about it because it’s obvious, in the context of 19th-century thinking, that this is how you build a city.”

Martin, as the picture above illustrates, was a riverfront partisan, an advocate for helping people rediscover the river’s many attractions beyond being a place to park mills.

Judith Martin, 63, wasn’t just a favorite with Minnesota Public Radio reporters. She was respected by academic peers and students.

An excerpt from the obituary prepared by Martin’s family explains why:

“Among the many classes she taught was a survey course on the geography of the Twin Cities, which hundreds of students took each year–many learning to their chagrin that understanding the cities and their region was far more complex than they expected. Martin’s brusque but cheery style inspired many to get out into the city and see what they could learn from close observation of the city and the people in it. One of her favorite exercises was to assign students to ride an unfamiliar bus route and describe the ridership patterns, landscape, and social relations that they observed.”

Her family says Judith Martin, a native of Chicago, died this week from complications due to a recurrence of breast cancer.

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