Heroes are not just found in history books. In fact, we have one who resides right here in Bulloch County. Meek, unassuming, unselfish, intelligent — Glennera Martin is this week’s unsung hero.
Her father. Eugene Martin Sr., served our country, worked at Fort Stewart’s commissary and was a self-employed realtor while her mother, Laura Bell Martin was a highly respected teacher, humanitarian, and the school system’s first African-American social worker. Her parents supported their daughter with love, guidance, and instilled within her a true desire to help others, coupled with a tenacity for learning and teaching.
She remembers that her father always admonished his children to spend their money wisely, yet her mother was the true wind beneath her sails, encouraging her to “never give up” even when she encountered face-to-face racism in her early years at the University of Georgia.
Heeding her mother’s advice, Martin toughed it out and later graduated with honors. It was here that she learned how “to cope” with the stares of bigotry; she just stared back and excelled. Truly, her family valued education. Her older sister Laura Gene Martin Travick is a retired math teacher who is serving on the Dublin City Board of Education in Dublin, Georgia.
She has a brother Eugene Martin Jr., who resides with her here in Statesboro; he is also known for this math acuity as an accounting major from Valdosta State University. Lastly, her twin sister, Glayvera Martin Richmond is a retired math teacher who was employed at Mississippi Valley State College and later received her Ph.D. in math from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
Even though all of her siblings excelled in math, Martin states that she “hated math.” That she has a twin is surprising to most people. However, even though they are not identical, they both share their parents’ commitment to education and unselfish living. Stating that she was just too busy to marry, Glennera still has four loving goddaughters: Natasha Taylor, Glennera Walker Dukes, Glennera Pierce and Glennera Stoney. Cousin Faye Martin is also like another sibling. She loves them all!
She holds three degrees, and her only regret is that she did not complete her doctorate, yet she considers it a short-term goal. She attended Nevils Elementary School. While in Bulloch County, she attended William James, both the elementary and the high school. After graduating with honors from William James in 1961, she attended what is now Savannah State University, receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education.
Four years later, she graduated with honors from the University of Georgia in Athens with a master's degree in Reading and a Leadership certificate in Administration and Supervision. Still whetting her appetite for knowledge, she also attended Georgia Southern University for additional graduate work. After 44 years of teaching, consulting and supervising, Martin retired in 2009.
Nevertheless, before retiring Martin established an exemplary record of scholarship and commitment to excellence. From 1965-70, she taught at Mary Jackson Elementary in Nevils, Georgia, and Martin G. Haynes Elementary School in Savannah. Next, from 1970-75, she was a Language Arts consultant for First District RESA in Statesboro. She was Statesboro’s first Black consultant. This position kept her moving; she traveled to many counties and provided testing and consultant services.
From 1975-09, she worked in Waynesboro, as Burke County’s Curriculum director. It was while employed here that she was introduced to grant writing. She remembers that in less than two days, the task was literally “dropped into her lap.” But she prayed to God for help, and even though her grant proposal was late, Burke County School System was awarded the grant.
Also, she served Burke County as a Title I director, the 21st Century After-School director, a parent coordinator, an ESOL coordinator, test coordinator and special education director.
Although she has retired, currently, Martin is an education consultant, a District 5 Board of Education member, and a community advocate.
At her church, Greater Bethel A.M.E., she assists in the distribution of monthly food boxes or offers moral support to those who are suffering due to the pandemic, and serves in many other capacities as well. However, Martin acknowledges her pastor Rev. DeBorah Lanier Scott and two other dedicated stewards, Bettye Harper and Marsha Twiggs, with credible assistance.
She lives Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
As a community philanthropist, Martin served as education chair of the African-American Business Owner’s Community Foundation Inc., whose motto is to promote leadership through education and scholastic excellence.
She also served as the first youth director for the Bulloch County NAACP, and she is a member of the Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center. She was also a former graduate adviser of Lambda Kappa Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at Georgia Southern University. She has also chaired the Willow Hill annual spelling bee, the Bulloch County Retired Educators’ Community Affairs Committee and the Savannah State University Foundation Member Committee.
Passionate about public speaking and planning reunions, her greatest joy still involves helping others. She locates or transports inmates to rehabilitation centers and becomes their spokesperson in court hearings, if needed. The elderly, the handicapped, and others are chauffeured to physician offices and to local grocery stores. No fees involved. She mentors youth and young adults.
Because of these services to mankind, she has received various awards such as the Bulloch County NAACP Achievement Award, Dean Day Smith Service Award to Mankind, Soror of the Year Nu Rho Omega Charter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the African Methodist Episcopal Church Living Legacy Award, Outstanding Educator Award, and the Joe Bill Brannon Civic Engagement Award by the Bulloch County Democratic Party Black Image Award.
Debbie Rodriguez, a prior Bulloch County jail inmate, says that Martin “got me the help that I needed,” adding that Martin is “a woman of character, integrity, and she is a prophetic-speaking steward of God. She doesn’t criticize. She doesn’t judge. She just uses her tenacity and strength to help anyone.”
“Her kindness and dedication defines her character. She doesn’t believe in average; she always pushes people to become their best. To me, she is Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman.’ She will go without so that someone else can have. She is truly phenomenal!” says Saundra Cobb Cooper, curriculum director in Burke County and friend of 41 years.
Friends since 1972, Dr. Lela Bonds adds that “she continues her mother Laura Bell Martin’s legacy of community. She is the voice for many people, youth and adults, advocating for their rights. She is dedicated and committed to anything she participates in. She speaks out when others remain silent.” So, we see that Martin may be soft-spoken, but when she needs to, she can roar, graciously, of course. The power of one voice!
Because Martin has helped so many adults achieve success by sharing her knowledge and her loving kindness, she gives deeper meaning to Maya Angelou’s words: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give. Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.” Actions truly build character, and Martin has a lot of it.
In other words, heroes like her never truly retire; they just keep doing. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” She lives her favorite verse. A true “doer” of the word! Glennera Martin loves people and people love Glennera Martin.
Written by Dr. Enola Mosley, an English teacher at Statesboro High School.