Waco Cotton Palace King 2018

By Gretchen Eichenberg

Martin Lee Schwartz

Pictured: Photo by Doug Fitzjarrell

Like the fabrics and fibers he works with each day, Martin Lee Schwartz — who will be crowned King of the 48th annual Waco Cotton Palace on Friday, April 27, 2018 at Waco Hall — is woven tightly into the Waco community. Each thread of his life is
carefully sewn into a tapestry that represents family, community and a business built on the tradition of integrity and an appreciation for friends, customers and employees alike.

“Serving as Cotton Palace King is an opportunity to reflect on Waco’s past, but more importantly a chance to feature and celebrate our community’s strides and successes in so many different areas with people from around our great state and nation,” Martin said. “What I hope people see through this event is our strong sense of community and Waco’s hospitality.”

Martin, son of the late Ellen and Arthur Schwartz, was born and raised in Waco. He is married to Loren Pam (Lupuloff) Schwartz, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and has made Waco her home for the past 27 years. The Schwartz’s have two sons, Jake and Joe, both of whom were Cotton Palace Royal Attendants and then Royal Escorts in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Jake graduated from the University of Texas Plan II Honors Program and McCombs School of Business and works for Deloitte Consulting in their Strategy and Operations division based out of Dallas. Joe finished his undergraduate degree in Corporate Communications at the University of Texas and is in his first year of graduate school there, pursuing a Master of Sports Management and completing his final year of eligibility on the UT Men’s Basketball team. Both sons are graduates of Vanguard College Preparatory School and also participated in the Waco Symphony Belle and Brass Program and the Teen Leadership Waco Program sponsored by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

The family’s “royal participation” began with Martin taking a part in the Cotton Palace production when he was a bachelor and Loren serving on the Cotton Palace Program Advertising committee, the first year she lived in Waco. She has since chaired that committee twice, and served in various other capacities. Martin and Loren have hosted a Thursday night dinner party at their home for Cotton Palace participants and their parents and have also enjoyed sponsoring out-of-town court members and their families over the years.

“Being a part of Waco Cotton Palace for the past 27 years has given me an opportunity to meet and network with many of Waco’s and our state’s finest families,” Loren said. “I learned the rich history of Waco by attending the Friday evening pageant and strongly encourage, especially new-comers to our community, to come to the Pageant and witness the beautiful and entertaining depiction of our community’s storied past from yesteryear through today”.

Martin was born into a hardworking Waco family whose leaders prided themselves on integrity and treating others with respect and dignity.

“My paternal grandfather died when my father was quite young,” Martin said. Very shortly thereafter, my Uncle Jake and my dad became the men of the house and the providers for the family.”

As a young boy, Martin’s dad Arthur worked six days a week. Martin’s father started Centex Manufacturing after he returned from World War II in 1945 with a loan from his older brother Jake.

“The value of hard work was already instilled in him and was passed along to me,” recounts Martin. “The importance of treating employees like family was always shown, as many people worked with my dad for over 40 years and many have worked with me for over 20 years. We never expect more from our employees than we expect of ourselves. Kindness, honesty and integrity were impressed upon me by both of my parents.”

“Completing tasks on time and standing behind our work is a reputation we covet at Centex Manufacturing and Schwartz Design Center and are proud to continue into our 73rd year of business,” Martin said with a broad smile.

These qualities are what drew Loren to him.

“Though at times, it seems that Martin is married to his business, he is actually an incredibly wonderful husband and father and I am very proud of the work ethic he possesses and the role model he has been to Jake and Joe,” said Loren. “I am constantly amazed by the sheer number of people Martin knows in our community – from former teammates to local business-owners and laborers alike. If he has one flaw, it is his ‘inability’ to have a brief conversation,” Loren said with a chuckle.

After graduating from Richfield High School 1974, Martin enrolled in the University of Texas Business School via McLennan Community College where he played basketball for the Highlanders under Coach Johnny Carter.

Martin began working for Centex Manufacturing immediately following his graduation from Texas. At that time, the company was primarily a canvas and aluminum products business which included building and installing window blinds, carports, funeral tents, dock covers, commercial walkway covers and awnings.

“In the late 1950s, we expanded into all types of floor covering and fabric based window treatments,” Martin said. “Since that time, we have become a full service interior design and products resource center assisting both commercial and residential clients.”

Martin met Loren, a budding sports marketing executive, through a friend in Houston. They married in 1991 and she moved to Waco in 1992. She is currently a Senior Financial Advisor for Merrill Lynch

“My first impression of Waco was very positive in the friendship arena, but a bit lacking in the opportunities for women in business.,” Loren said. “There were also very few restaurant and entertainment choices in comparison to the bigger cities where I had most recently lived. Thankfully, that is all changing and evolving, and it has been a pleasure to witness that progress.”

Martin said local philanthropist and friend Bernard Rapoport served as a role model to him.

“I admired his work ethic,” Martin said, “as well as his spirit of giving to those less fortunate. Jim Hawkins was also a businessman whom I admired for his community involvement, cutting edge ideas and his frequent business recommendations.”

Integrity and a strong work ethic, Martin said, are the qualities he finds most valuable in others.

“It’s also about family and faith,” he said. “It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do.”

Youth, education and the local economy are causes that are important to Martin. He has served on the board of the YMCA, the Waco Boys and Girls Club, Hillcrest Hospital Board of Advisors, the WISD Adopt a School Board, along with the MCC Foundation.

“I also enjoyed coaching kids at the Waco Lion’s Den,” Martin said. “More recently, I focused my energy on my own children, being a coach of their various sports teams and serving on the board of Vanguard College Preparatory School.”

For the past five years, Martin has served on the Rotary Scholarship Committee, helping to select recipients who have demonstrated outstanding “Service above Self.” He serves on the boards of the Waco Business League and the Association of General Contractors. He has also served on both of the boards of the two synagogues located in Waco, Congregation Agudath Jacob and Temple Rodef Sholom.

“Judaism is a religion of commandments and covenants,” Martin said. “It provides me with a moral and ethical compass of how to live and work each day. I am by no means a religious scholar, but I am proud to be a part of a faith that values family, tradition, the treatment of others and the importance of charity”.

Martin said he believes it is very important to teach young people to give back to their community.

“The more you put into your community, the more you get out of it,” he said. “It’s important to learn that early on.”

Formerly a marathon runner and tennis player, Martin’s hobbies and interests have more recently revolved around being a parent and actively engaging in his sons’ activities, particularly in sports, which their youngest even extended to the collegiate level.

“I coached them as kids,” Martin said, “but mostly was an avid fan and facilitated their transportation to practice, lessons, games and tournaments.”

Between work and attending Joe’s basketball games at UT to making visits to see Jake in Dallas, Martin and Loren don’t really have a lot of free time.

“Both of us work hard and have been devoted to our children,” Martin said. “Loren is a successful businesswoman and outstanding community volunteer. It is no surprise that she is in the rotation to become only the second women Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce President in its 101 year history.”

The Schwartz’s do enjoy traveling with family and friends when they are able.

“Family trips to Hawaii, the Caymans and New York City enjoying the theater and Yankee and Mets baseball games are some of our most memorable experiences,” Martin said. “Loren and I enjoyed a ‘bucket list’ trip to Israel in 2016 with dear friends Lyndon and Kay Olson and Valerie and Gordon Robinson, sharing a spiritual and historic journey through the Jewish homeland.”

But it’s Waco that Martin loves best.

“I really love the deep and diverse friendships I’ve developed over 60+ years of living in a small, close knit and embracing community,” he said.

When they do take time to unwind, Martin and Loren find joy walking and playing with their 12 year old Wheaten terrier, Reebok, and the peace in the view from their back porch.

“We love watching the sunsets from there,” he said. “We also love spending time on Lake Waco or in Cameron Park.”

Martin said his mission during Cotton Palace weekend will be to tout Waco’s best assets.

“Waco’s future is incredibly bright,” he said. “That’s something that I have known and enjoyed for years, but is just now getting the positive recognition it deserves. I hope to spread the message that Waco is a very desirable place to live and work. It is easy to get around, has beautiful natural resources and has three fine post-secondary educational institutions. To know Waco is to love Waco- that’s my message!”

Join the Conversation