Folks from the Alabama Black Belt used a plethora of phrases to describe Selma’s Jean Martin, who died Monday, March 11, at age 89.
Treasure, journalist, friend, public servant, courageous, volunteer, writer, historian.
For me, Jean Martin was our newsroom mom, a Selma stalwart and decades-long friend and mentor. Jean was one of the first people I met when I went to work at The Selma Times-Journal one year out of Auburn and journalism school. She taught me and a series of young reporters – including her J’s (me, Janet Gresham and Jeannette Berryman, a trio at the Times-Journal in the 1980s) – about Selma, about working at a community newspaper, about making your readers FEEL something and about being strong and brave when you need to be.
Jean took us under her wing, called my husband “just darlin’,” introduced us around, vouched for us, and was there for our milestones – professional and personally. Jean was there at the birth of our first child – with Nikki Maute in my room when Will was hours old, taking a picture and publishing a column, “The news room announces a very special addition.”
She was Lifestyle editor, a job I’d later hold after one of her retirements from the Times-Journal. She never retired, really, from the art of writing, as an award-winning columnist, or from life and service, serving as director of the Old Depot Museum and several terms on the Selma City Council.
I last spoke to Jean in 2004, when she called me at home in Camden, when I was recovering from breast cancer surgery. A decades-long breast cancer survivor, she encouraged and pronounced my journey as successful (it has been), and we made plans to get together, but, I regret, we never did. We kept up through mutual friends and reading an occasion column, but still feel as close to my newsroom mom as when she wrote about me and my first born.
Jean loved her hometown of Selma and promoted it in every way possible. She did the same for her friends. I was lucky to be one of those friends, and I feel blessed for it.
|Jean Martin, left, our newsroom mom, |
with Nikki Maute, Maxine McDonald, Janet Gresham, me and Jeanette Berryman.