Martin stood for excellence

Published 11:23 am Thursday, February 23, 2012

To the Editor:

A line of cars filled with excited teenagers was hurtling down the highway, heading from Ahoskie to Raleigh for their group’s biggest event of the year: the state Beta Club convention.  The year was 1972, and this convention was special; we were running a candidate for state office!  Yes, our own Gayle Davenport (now Mizelle) was running for state Beta Club secretary and we were determined she was going to get elected. How could we lose, with our dedicated and venerable sponsor, Mrs. Emma Martin, in charge?

We were all business while traveling to Raleigh:  Mrs. Martin was in the back seat with Gayle, drilling her on the speech she would make. Gayle practiced her lines over and over.

We had worked hard for this moment, practicing a campaign skit masterminded by our club’s tech experts, Chip Brown and Mark Clodfelter.  This was no ordinary skit; our theme was “2001: A Space Odyssey” and we were going to focus on Gayle with a STROBE light, while intoning the words: “Leadership… is GAYLE.”

The end of the story is that yes, Gayle won!  We were proud as she gave her acceptance speech. Her election was just one more honor for our club and for Mrs. Martin, who had devoted countless hours of her spare time to help us be the best we could be.

Being a member of the Beta Club was special.  You had to have a certain grade point average….close was not good enough. When the time for induction arrived, you weren’t sure if you had made it.

Under Mrs. Martin’s leadership, the induction ceremony, attended by the entire student body, was unforgettable. The auditorium was darkened, and one by one, Beta Clubbers stepped to the microphone with lighted candles and explained the virtue that each one stood for.  Then came the big moment: the members filtered through the rows of seats and tapped the new candidates for membership.

I didn’t make it into the Beta Club that year.  A few days later Mrs. Martin told me how close I had come, and that she was so sorry.  I shed a few tears, but I did get in later on and I was happy to be a part of that special club.

Mrs. Martin stood for excellence, and was one of the greats at Ahoskie High School.  She taught French to countless young people over the years, and led groups to France in the summer.  Within the Beta Club she orchestrated many activities, including the chicken salad plate sale which helped finance our annual convention trip.

Mrs. Martin was a friend, a confidante, and a leader to her students, and was interested in them even after they graduated and grew to middle age.  I will always remember her.


Linda Viser Lee

AHS Class of 1973