Martha Rountree was born on October 23, 1911 in Gainesville, Florida. She was raised in Columbia, South Carolina. While attending the University of South Carolina, she worked at the Columbia Record; however, she chose not to finish her degree and returned to Florida to work for the Tampa Tribune. In 1938 she moved to New York where she worked writing freelance articles and advertising copy for magazines. In 1940, she and her sister Ann opened Radio House, a production firm.
Rountree also founded the first panelist radio show, Leave It To the Girls, which aired one day after Meet the Press, which she also originated and coproduced. Leave It To the Girls eatured a panel of four women who answered questions from listeners. It ran on the Mutual Network for four years, premiered on local television in 1947, and moved to prime-time on NBC in 1949 where it ran until March 1954. The show returned to NBC from 1962-1963.
Rountree also created, coproduced and acted as the first and only female moderator of Meet the Press, which first aired on the radio October 5, 1945. Lawrence Spivak coproduced and acted as a permanent panelist while the show ran for five years on Mutual radio. In 1947, NBC picked up the program, and Rountree remained moderator until 1953, when she sold her share to Spivak - the two had decided that a coin toss would determine who would buy out whom. In 1947 and 1951 the show won the Peabody Award, and in 1951 the show won a Radio and Television Arts and Sciences Award. Rountree was given awards from the Women for Achievement and the National Fraternity for Women in Journalism.
In 1952 she married Oliver Presbrey. In 1953, after selling her share in Meet the Press, she went on the lecture circuit. In 1955, she launched a magazine, Know the Facts, and started a radio station, WKTF, in Northern Virginia. In 1956 she returned to television acting as moderator of Press Conference which later became known as Martha Rountree's Press Conference.
Rountree also created and produced several other radio and television programs including: Keep Posted, Washington Exclusive, andCapitol Closeup. She also frequently appeared on The Nation's Future.
In 1965, she founded the Leadership Foundation, a non-profit political research organization, based in Washington. The women's foundation evolved into a "Crusade Against Moral Pollution." One of the foundations projects was an effort to get religion and prayer back into public schools. She acted as president of the foundation until 1988, the same year that her husband, Oliver Presbrey died.
In 1997, Rountree was honored at the 50th anniversary celebration of Meet the Press as the shows first and to date only female moderator. She was a member of the National Press Club and the Women's National Press Club. She received awards from the Women for Achievement, the National Fraternity of Women in Journalism, and the American Legion.
Martha Rountree died August 23, 1999.