Martin Luther Huddleston, legislator, preacher, and miller, son of John Patrick Huddleston and Frances Caroline (Killian [or Killion]) Huddleston, was born on April 22, 1854, in Anderson County, Texas.
As a child, Huddleston spent very little time in school. Instead he worked for his father on the family farm. On November 1, 1874, Huddleston married Eunice Delany. They had eleven children: Albert, Virgil C., Monroe, Franklin M., Francis Penelope, Ider, Lorenzo McTyre, Gertrude, Moody, Pearl, and Josephine.
Huddleston learned to read and write sufficiently to be licensed to preach the gospel at the age of twenty-seven. Unable to make a living as a minister, however, he decided to go into the sawmill business. He remained a miller for the rest of his life.
In 1889 Huddleston was elected chaplain of the Nechesville County Farmers’ Alliance, and in 1892 he was elected vice-president of the Second Congressional District Alliance. In 1894 Huddleston was elected to represent Anderson County in the Twenty-fourth Legislature as a Populist in the House of Representatives. He served one term from 1895 to 1897 and sat on two committees: the Military Affairs Committee and the Public Health and Vital Statistics Committee. While in office, he proposed one bill, House Bill 502, which died in committee. The bill proposed to amend the requirements for parties applying for a continuance in civil cases. In February 1895 Huddleston and his fellow Populist legislators called for a meeting to be held in Austin for the purpose of establishing a daily newspaper dedicated to promoting the People’s Party’s philosophy and campaign events. Huddleston left few overt clues as to his political philosophy, but he confided to his diary that the “strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak,” a belief that likely drew him to the Populists’ active-government platforms that were intended to protect the interests of the common man.
When he left his office in Austin, he remained in East Texas and continued working as a miller with business dealings in Elkhart and Palestine. He remained involved in the People’s Party and was elected chairman of the Anderson County Populist Committee in 1898. Although Huddleston was a rural Texan with limited formal education, his diary reveals him as a broad-minded man with considerable intellectual curiosity. Despite being an ordained minister, in his later life he embraced a version of Christian spiritualism that transcended narrow sectarian dogma. He struggled to reconcile his religious faith with his belief in science, concluding at one point that his faith was “in perfect harmony with true scientific reason according to my way of thinking.” He criticized what he called “church prejudice” and blamed it for the decline in church attendance. Like many Populists, he also believed that political misrule had contributed to a decline in public morals, declaring that “when the wicked rule the people mourn.” In addition to his religious interests, he was a member of the Friendship Literary and Debating Society.
Sometime after 1900, Huddleston moved to Bartlett in nearby Cherokee County where he died on October 29, 1910. He was buried next to his father in Crawford Cemetery in Anderson County.