The Legacy Lives On

L to R: Jack Martin, Wiley Martin (Charlotte College, class of '59), Kaylee Martin, James Martin '95.
Friday, November 15, 2019

Wiley Martin really wanted to attend the UNC Charlotte Alumni Association Legacy Pinning ceremony earlier this month. After all, his family’s legacy at the University is a long one. 

His grandchildren, Kaylee and Jack, are juniors at UNC Charlotte. His son, James, is a 1995 graduate.

And Martin, 86, is a 1959 graduate of Charlotte College.Martin family at the Legacy Pinning ceremony

“I enjoyed it a great deal,” Martin said of his time at Charlotte College. “I met a lot of fine folks down there. Many of them were working full time just like I was.”

The Alumni Association’s pinning ceremony lets students honor alumni family members by pinning them with a legacy lapel pin. Minor illness kept Martin from attending the ceremony, where his granddaughter Kaylee had hoped to pin him. But it couldn’t keep him from sharing his memories.

“He’s a very, very vivid storyteller,” Kaylee, a communications major, said of her grandfather. 

After graduating from high school in 1951, the Charlotte native went to work at Southern Bell, which later became BellSouth. But Martin, who had been a baseball player in high school, briefly left the company to pursue his dream of a professional baseball career and attend spring training in Melbourne, Florida.

“I want to say I got hurt, but that would be somewhat of a lie because the only thing that got hurt was my feelings,” Martin recalled.

He returned to Southern Bell and, after a brint stint in the Army, would turn to Charlotte College in 1956 to help him climb the management ranks at the company.

Five days a week Martin, a business administration major, would go to work at 7:30 a.m., get off at five, and head to the Charlotte College campus on Elizabeth Avenue for classes that started at 6 p.m.

“It was trying working full-time and going to school every night, but that’s just what I felt like I needed to do,” said Martin, adding that he would do it all over again.J. Wiley Martin 

Between studies, work and family responsibilities, Martin also found time for extracurricular activities. He was student body president in 1959, freshman class president and student council president, among other activities. Among his favorite professors were Herbert Hechenbleikner, who taught biology, and Edyth Winningham, who taught political science and international affairs. 

Martin didn’t push his children or grandchildren to attend UNC Charlotte, but he says it means a lot that they did.

“I was very happy for them to go,” He said. “UNCC is a far cry from what Charlotte College was. Bonnie Cone held it together for several years there with the dream of it becoming UNCC.”

Martin retired from Southern Bell in 1994 and went on to work 14 years in the administration of his former church. He and his wife, Jeraldeen, have been married for 65 years.

It has been about 20 years since Martin last visited campus. But he remains connected through his grandchildren, who live near him.

“They keep me well informed about all the activities going on,” Martin said. “I think it’s come such a long way in the last 60 years.”