Athens, Ala. – As a young man, James Martin served in the United States Army as a Private First Class. By the time I came to know “Brother Martin”, he was leading “I’m In The Lord’s Army” and “This Little Light Of Mine” to us young children seated on the front two pews at Jackson Drive church of Christ. Even though it’s been over 30 years ago, there are simple acts of kindness that I can easily recall about James Martin. I wanted to share those things with you along with the valuable lessons they can teach us.
How do you inspire a young person? How do you give them that first push toward confidence in themselves? For me, it was in the form of responsibility, a job. When I was about eight years old, Brother Martin asked me if I would be interested in cutting his grass and getting paid to do it. On grass cutting day, my granddaddy would help me load our push mower into the bed of our 1950 GMC pickup and he would drive me across town to the Martin’s home which was located just off of Elm Street. When the Martin’s weren’t at home, Brother Martin would have a five dollar bill waiting for me under a brick by the side door of their home. Leaving the money under that brick stood out to me as a child. Leaving that money, without being home, meant that he trusted that I was going to do the job that he had asked me to do. Brother Martin gave young people responsibility and trusted them to do it.
Today, via social media, we see when our friends are having a birthday. We send them a message and acknowledge the day. Long before social media was even thought about, Brother Martin would call you on your birthday and immediately begin to sing, “Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, God bless you. Happy birthday to you!” It began the day in a special way. Brother Martin let you know he was thinking about you.
There was also another call that Brother Martin would make. It was a “sweet” call! He would call the house to let grandmother know he was bringing pie. We’re not talking just any pie, it was Buttermilk Pie! To this day, it’s my favorite pie. Using Brother Martin’s recipe, which I am now sharing with you, my grandmother still makes me Buttermilk Pie for special occasions.
Growing up, it was typically women who I would see cooking and taking food to others. As a child, it was interesting to see a man doing that. Brother Martin had a talent as a cook and he was using it. Over the years, there is no telling how many pies and other food he took to others. Brother Martin used his talents by sharing with others.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned Brother Martin leading the children in song at church. A few minutes prior to Sunday evening worship, Brother Martin conducted a “Children’s Class”. In that class, he would share a Bible story and lead songs. Although he and his wife, Mary, never had children of their own, it did not prevent them from showing love to other people’s children. In that, they had many children. As children, we would go to the Martin’s to visit and carry small gifts to them.
On January 16th, 1990, James T. Martin, Jr. passed away, but his “light” still shines. Whether it was leading the children in song at church, calling you up on your birthday and singing, or making buttermilk pie, the lessons of Brother Martin live on. That is the greatest lesson. Long after we’re gone, our legacy continues through what we do for others and how we make them feel. You can “Mark It Down”.