September 29, 2020 Jason Reynolds, The Murfreesboro Post
Family and friends of the original ‘Mr. Murfreesboro’, Tommy Martin, said they want to make sure members of the community continue to remember his legacy.
Martin’s influence in shaping the community in the mid-1900’s was such that the Murfreesboro City Council and Rutherford County Commission both passed resolutions giving him his nickname and establishing his birthday, April 21, as Mr. Murfreesboro Day, says his grandson Hunter McFarlin.
Tommy Martin Drive connects City Hall to Broad Street. A lobby at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce is named for him as well, McFarlin said.
“He contributed a lot to the growth of the city and community,” McFarlin said.
The current ‘Mr. Murfreesboro’, real estate agent Bill Wilson, said that Martin brought the State Farm office, General Electric (which is now gone) and other businesses here. Martin was friends with Wilson’s grandfather, also named Bill Wilson, who was the sheriff and road supervisor. Wilson said that with McFarlin’s blessing, he took on the nickname to honor Martin.
Martin was an agent with Mutual of New York for almost sixty years and won the company’s national agent of the year award in 1956, McFarlin said.
In the 1940s, Martin and five or six others formed the Industrial Development Board, McFarlin said. The turned the city from an agricultural community into an industrial town. The hospital was scheduled to be closed in the 1940s, and Martin went around the county asking people for donations. He showed up at a city council meeting with $5,000 in cash, saving the hospital.
“He called himself a professional beggar for good causes,” McFarlin said.
The Tommy Martin Chair of Insurance resides at Middle Tennessee State University. According to MTSU’s website, the chair “was founded by a group of alumni and friends to upgrade and enhance the insurance curriculum at MTSU. Dr. Kenneth Hollman was essential in building the current MTSU Insurance Program from an idea to am iconic program.”
A charitable golf tournament is held each year in Martin’s name and provides scholarships to students, according to an October 2017 Murfreesboro Post Story.
McFarlin’s cousin, Brenden Martin, a professor of history at MTSU shared additional details about his grandfather.
During World War II, Tommy Martin headed up the war bond campaign in the mid-state, Brenden Martin said. By traveling around the mid-state to sell war bonds and life insurance, he made connections that draw business here.
Wilson and McFarlin said Martin was well-known for saying, “God loves you and I do too.” He enjoyed telling the managers at every restaurant he went to that htey had the best food, service and restaurant he had experienced, McFarlin said.
He was also a charter member of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, McFalrin said. is wife Anita (Hampton) Martin was over the firs tGirl Scout troop in Rutherford County, and she founded St. Mark’s library he said.
The couple moved to Murfreesboro in 1934 and lived in an upstairs apartment at the Women’s Club, 221 East College Street, McFarlin said. The house on East College Street is on the National Register of Historic Places. The couple were members of First United Methodist Church but were with the group that founded St. Mark’s because they wanted a church that was closer to the University; the first St. Mark’s building was near the MTSU president’s home.
Martin was born in Athens, Alabama, April 21, 1913, and died March 27, 2000, Brenden Martin said.
“The major growth we’re seeing got kick started by him and the other people working with the Chamber of Commerce,’ Brenden Martin said.