VALDOSTA — Few people have streets named after them—or anything for that matter—while they are still living. Valdosta native Minnie Martin, age 73, said she is glad to have her “flowers” given to her while she can appreciate them herself.
“I’ve served Valdosta all my life, but this is the best thing that has ever happened to me.” said Martin, who is battling a type of bone cancer. “I’ve lost a lot of friends in recent years; and after several close calls myself, I’m thankful to still be here and a part of this great community.”
On Saturday, April 11, at 10 a.m., Valdosta citizens will gather for a ceremony to officially rename a portion of East Rogers Street, between North Lee Street and North Troup Street, to “Minnie A. Martin Drive.” Valdosta City Council received a petition representing the approval of over 80 percent of residents on the street, prior to approving the street name change at the Jan. 9 City Council meeting. No one spoke in opposition of the request.
“The citizens of Valdosta want to pay tribute to Minnie Martin, a distinguished servant who has represented Valdosta-Lowndes County well,” said Valdosta City Councilman Joseph “Sonny” Vickers. “She has been a trail blazer who has inspired, empowered, and improved the lives of all within her reach. She has made a tremendous difference in Valdosta and her contributions will be enjoyed by generations to come.”
The approximately 1,000-foot portion of the street to be renamed represents Martin’s ministry field, where for decades she has been intricately involved with her neighbors, selflessly providing everything from childcare, meals, prayer and counsel, to everything in between.
Martin has also held numerous influential roles in the community, which include being the first black female elected to serve on the Valdosta Board of Education, from 1985-1990. After losing by a small margin in the attempt to become the first female state representative in 1990, she followed with a successful campaign to become the first female elected to the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners in 1992. Martin also served on the Regional Development Center Board, the Valdosta-Lowndes County Library Board, The Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors, The Drug Task Force Board, and the Valdosta-Lowndes County Animal Shelter Board. In addition, Martin hosted the persuasive “Talk Back South Georgia” show for WJEM 1150 AM Radio.
At the state level, Martin served on the Policy Committee of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, and became the Vice Chairman of the County Government Committee. In 1994, she was appointed by then-Gov. Zell Miller to serve on the Certification Committee of the Georgia Police Officer Standards and Training (POST).
As a gospel singer and song writer, Martin raises her voice for the Lord. Among many accomplishments, she was among the first black choir singers to perform at the New York World Fair and at the New Port News Jazz Festival, and traveled other parts of the country and abroad, and has several musical recordings to her credit.
Antonio Harrington, Owner and Funeral Director of Harrington Funeral Home, joined several dozen others at the Jan. 9 packed public meeting to show his favor of the street name change. Harrington summarized the woman who helped raise him with two words, “A Rock.”
I’ve always heard it said that you should give flowers to people while they are still alive,” said Harrington. “I can’t think of a greater honor for Ms. Martin, for all she has done for so many people, including myself. She is truly a living legend here in Valdosta, and this is a great way to honor her.”
An assembly permit has been received for the event that will take place on the corner of East Rogers and North Lee Streets. The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce will facilitate the ribbon cutting ceremony, which will be followed by the words of several prominent Valdosta leaders, including Mayor John Gayle, Councilman Sonny Vickers, Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress, Ruth Council, and others.
Martin will be joined at the event by her husband of 42 years, John H. Martin, and her daughter, Jairus Alishia Vilean Martin.
“I must have been living some kind of life to receive this kind of treatment,” Martin tearfully said. “I thank God for the City of Valdosta. For the rest of my life, I will look up at that street sign as a reminder that I’ve lived my life right, and I have made a difference.”
Sementha Mathews: Valdosta City Public Information Officer