Williamston recreation program thrived under Martin’s guidance

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Retires with 52 years of service

After 52 years of working as the Parks and Recreation Director for the Town of Williamston, Dale Martin is retiring. During that time, he has worked under five different mayors and helped build Williamston’s recreation program from non-existent into one of the best around. Martin has headed Williamston’s Parks and Recreation Department under mayors Francis Wilson, Marion Middleton Sr., Phillip Clardy, Carthel Crout and Mack Durham.

On Monday he was recognized by the Town for his years of service and dedication. More than 150 people including former students, athletes, school board members, family, friends, co-workers and town officials attended the event.

Williamston Mayor Mack Durham presented Martin with a plaque of appreciation. Parks and Recreation Committee Chair Kempie Shepard presented Martin with a certificate of appreciation from the committee.

When Martin began working with the town there were no ball fields and no organized teams. Under his leadership, the program grew to four ballfields and two soccer fields. The youth baseball program now has 14 teams with more than 200 participants in a normal year plus girls’ softball with more than 75 players.

“It was something I wanted to start,” he said. “I felt like the kids needed it.”

Working closely with Mt. Vernon Mill Plant Manger Hugh Wofford and Mayor Marion Middleton, he was instrumental in getting the town’s first baseball teams outfitted and in having a field for them to play on.

To get started, Martin went to Mt. Vernon, Modern Supply, the Sertoma Club and other businesses and people in the community to raise money to get the team uniforms, equipment and gas money.

He created one team to play in a league in Anderson.

Mayor Middleton was also a key player in helping get the team started. He got behind the program and together they raised enough money to build the town’s first ballfield which is the field nearest the concession stand.

Dale, with help from sons Barry and Vic, worked on the field everynight to get it ready. “It was basically a one man show,” daughter Stephanie Martin said.

Billy Dillard, with Dillard Sporting Goods in Anderson, was also instumental in helping Martin get the Williamston program started, helping with equipment, uniforms and anything they needed, according to Stephanie. “Dale said they never would have been able to do it without help from Billy Dillard.”

The first team had 15 kids which would load up in Martin’s old Ford Econoline van and drive twice a week to Anderson to compete in the YMCA games.

The team qualified to compete in All Star games and Martin went to area businesses to help with funds to drive and compete in the games.

The program started with one field and eventually three more were added in addition to Legion Field, where the Palmetto Mustang Baseball Team now plays. The program also has girls softball.

Pelzer’s Bill Hopkins was a key ally with Martin in helping other teams that now compete in the Dixie league get started. They helped with other teams including Cheddar, Wren, Piedmont, Belton and Honea Path.

“One of my memories is Dale on an old tractor pulling a metal mattress springs around smoothing the fields,” said Stephanie.

Martin was known for having the cleanest ball parks. “He kept it really clean,” she said.

He also put in a tremendous amount of time and dedication that was needed each year for signups and recruiting coaches.

Stephanie said she grew up in the house when people were calling all the time. “There was a lot of headache,” she said. “Dale had it mastered.”

Under Martin’s leadership, the program expanded into soccer, with two new soccer fields added about ten years ago.

In 2008, The Town of Williamston honored Martin naming the baseball field complex for him.

During his time as Williamston’s Parks and Recreation Director, Martin also ran the Williamston Recreation Center which was the site of the Williamston pool.

The pool often had 80 to 100 kids in it during the summer months.

Debbie Walker and Martin’s son Vic were lifeguards at the pool during the 1960s and 70s.

The pool at the old Gossett St. School building was originally built in the 1950s.

Martin came on as the director in 1962 and was over the Recreation Center for 15 years. The pool was eventually taken over by the YMCA before it was closed in the 1980s due to increasing costs and liabilities.

The Rec Center also had ping-pong, weights and classes including dance and aerobics.

During his time as the town’s parks and recreation director, Martin was also a School District One teacher and coach and later served on District One School Board. He currently serves on the County School Board.

Martin served 34 years as a teacher, assistant coach, coach, assistant principal and principal before retiring from the public school system in 1996.

He came to Anderson School District One in 1961 and taught PE and 9th grade math at Palmetto High School.

He was the Assistant Football Coach under Donnie Garrison at Palmetto High from 1961-1965. The Mustangs won the conference championship in 1965 and in the fall of 1970, under Coach Martin, the Mustangs won the 3A State Championship.

Martin also coached girl’s basketball at Palmetto from 1966-1971.

He left Palmetto High to be an Assistant Principal at Wren Middle for 10 years. In 1974 he left and took a position with Greenville Technical College working for three years as the liaison between businesses and the college, writing over $3 million in grants for interns for business employees at the school.

In 1990, Martin went to Abbeville County as the Principal of Antreville Elementary and Calhoun Falls Elementary.

He was inducted into the Palmetto High School Athletic Hall of Fame as a football coach in 1997.

Martin has been married to wife Carol for 34 years. In addition to sons Barry (and Cindy Martin) and Vic (and Sherry Martin), and daughters Stephanie (and James Martin) and Miriam (and Burris Nelson), they have 18 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

Williamston Mayor Mack Durham said, “It has been an honor to work with Dale the short time I have been mayor. He served the town for many years and has done an exemplary job. We wish him the best and he is always welcome at town hall.”

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