Read more Chattanooga History Columns
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- Robbins: The old Richardson's house and the Civil War
- Gaston: James Williams was a man of the world
- Raney: Mason Evans, the 'Wild Man of the Chilhowee'
- Gaston: The legacy of Adolph Ochs endures
- Martin: Ed Johnson said, 'I have a changed heart,' the day before his lynching in Chattanooga on 1906
- Thomas: The inventiveness of Judge Michael M. Allison
- Moore: Chattanooga's first Chinese community
- Summers, Robbins: Chattanooga's Tuskegee Airman - Joseph C. White
- McCallie: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 says so!
- Gaston: John McCline's Civil War - from slave to D.C. parade
- Raney: Exploring Chattanooga businesses in the Green Book
- Elliott: Remembering the Freedmen's Bureau in Chattanooga
- Gaston: Nancy Ward was a beloved, respected Tennessean
- Martin: Prohibition - the noble experiment
- Elliott: 'A shameful, disgraceful deed': The destruction of the Sewanee cornerstone
- Gaston: Robert Cravens was ironmaster, Chattanooga area's first commuter
- Robbins: Dr. T.H. McCallie's Christmas 1863
- Robbins: Journalist writes of a trip to Missionary Ridge in 1896
- Summers, Robbins: Mine 21 disaster - gone but not forgotten
- Elliott: Collegedale incorporates to avoid Sunday 'blue laws'
- Gaston: 'Marse Henry' Watterson's journalism fame began in Chattanooga
- Robbins: Orchard Knob battle recalled in 1895
- Elliott: Chattanoogans joined in an 'orgy of joy and gladness' on Armistice Day, 1918
- Thomas: Noted service, speakers are marks of Rotary Club of Chattanooga since 1914
- Summers and Robbins: Remembering noted Tennessee author North Callahan
- Raney: 'I auto cry, I auto laugh, I auto sign my autograph'
- Gaston: Sequoyah's alphabet enriched Cherokees
- Robbins: A look at Sam Divine's life during the Civil War
- Robbins: Memories of a Confederate nurse
- Robbins: More notes from Bradford Torrey's 1895 visit to Chickamauga Battlefield
- Robbins: Journalist in 1895 details visit to Chickamauga Battlefield
- Elliott: Telephone exchange firebombing was distraction for grocery store robbery
- Gaston: Worcester brought Christ's message to Cherokee at Brainerd Mission
- Robbins: 1896 travel diary: 'A Week on Walden's Ridge'
- Gaston: Elizabeth Strayhorn, WAC Commandant at Fort Oglethorpe
- Robbins: The history of the Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park
- Moore: Do you own a Sears Roebuck home?
- Summers and Robbins: Camp Nathan Bedford Forrest in World War II
- Gaston: Hiram Sanborn Chamberlain remembered
- Elliott: Daisy the center of tile, ceramic manufacturing in Hamilton County
- Gaston: FDR inaugurates the Chickamauga Dam
- Summers, Robbins: Interned WWII Germans had it easy at Camp Crossville
- Elliott: A war correspondent on Lookout Mountain
- Gaston: Chickamaugas finally bury hatchet in Tennessee Valley
- Gaston: Chickamaugas in Chattanooga
- Robbins: The history of the Riverbend festival
- Raney: Sadie Watson, the first woman elected in Hamilton County government
- Moore: Remembering Chattanooga's Hawkinsville community
- Elliott: Welsh coal miners transformed Soddy after the Civil War
- Gaston: Chattanooga's best-kept secret
- Elliott: Cabell Breckinridge loses his horse
- Raney: Martin Fleming is the people's judge
- Gaston: The amazing career of Francis Lynde
- Martin: Hamilton County's Name Sake: Alexander Hamilton
- Summers, Robbins: The crosses at Sewanee
- Bledsoe: The fiery truce at Kennesaw Mountain
- Moore: Talented architect's life cut short by tragedy
- Rydell: Chattanooga's place in soccer history
- Robbins: Tennessee Coal, member of the First Dow Jones Industrial Average
- Raney: In the barber chair
- Lanier: Becoming the Boyce Station Neighborhood Association
- McCallie: John P. Franklin: Living history among us
- Barr: Chattanooga's first railroad: The Underground Railroad
- Summers, Robbins: Charles Bartlett was a Pulitzer Prize winner, Kennedy confidant
- Rainey: 'We have seen it'
- Elliott: Feinting and fighting at Running Water Creek and Johnson's Crook
- Gaston: The Spring Frog Cabin at Audubon Acres
- Raney: Wauhatchie Pike was moonshine motorway
- Robbins: Oakmont was home of venerable Williams clan
- Summers and Robbins: Rebirth of the Mountain Goat Line
- Elliott: Bad investments led to Soddy Bank failure in 1930
- Summers and Robbins: Pearl Harbor attack left football behind
- Gaston: Jolly’s Island namesake had long ties with Sam Houston
- Return Jonathan Meigs, Indian Agent
- Moore: Did you know about St. Elmo's other two cemeteries?
- Summers: Orme - Marion County's almost lost community
- Davis: Spooky revival at Sharp Mountain in 1873
- Robbins: The story of Longholm
- Raney: Women labored to help the U.S. win World War I
- Even in the city, the 'wheel' changed everything
- Murray: Confederate dilemma after Chickamauga
- J.B. Collins — Newsman extraordinaire
- Robbins: The Story of the Lyndhurst Mansion
- Chattanooga artist and wife lost on the Lusitania
- Chattanooga History Column: Battelle, Alabama and the Battelle Institute
- John Ross, a founder of Chattanooga
- Hamilton County casualties in World War I
- Chattanooga Power Couple
- 'Somewhere in France'
- The Ray Moss family
- Battery B from Chattanooga
- Ulysses S. Grant, Clark B. Lagow, and the Chattanooga Bender
- Songbirds Museum Timeline
- Hamilton County World War 1 roster
- The Soddy Girl and the Memphis Belle
- Blues icon Bessie Smith was the Empress of Soul
- Women's Army Corps at Chickamauga
- Emma Bell Miles' life at the top of the 'W'
- The Tivoli Wurlitzer is one of Chattanooga's priceless assets
- Chattanooga in struggle for freedom during Civil War
- October 1918, Chattanooga paralyzed by Spanish flu epidemic
- Eli Lilly and the Ditch of Death
- One hundred years ago, Chattanooga goes to war
- The legacy of Anna Safley Houston
- Harriet Whiteside was ahead of her time
- Southern Adventist University
- Chattanooga native's writings aided Civil Rights movement
- Zion College, Chattanooga's only African American College
- The North Shore's hidden past
- Mayme Martin -- Businesswoman and community leader
- Thomas Sim's epic struggle for freedom
- Top of Cameron Hill was price of rerouting interstate
- Cameron Hill has rich history
- Temperance movement included Harriman university
- The sweetest music this side of Heaven
- Conquistadors at Chattanooga
- Chattanooga and the 'General'
- Chattanooga's first Thanksgiving, 1863
- Chattanooga's greatest flood caught city unaware
- Opening the Cracker Line
- European trip in 1900 enlightens Sophia Scholze Long
- Sophia Scholze Long spoke out when others were silent
- Little South Pittsburg and its big silent movie stars
- Lot attendant recalls hottest job in Chattanooga
- Chattanooga's Forest Hills is final resting place for known, unknown
- Burritt College -- Pioneer of the Cumberlands
- Chattanooga's nicknames trace city's evolution
- The 25th annual meeting of the Tennessee Press Association
- Clemons Brothers Furniture Store
- The Short Life of the USS Chattanooga
- Ellen Jarnagin McCallie lived a truly remarkable life
- Dr. Jonathan Bachman was a revered city father
- Second guessing the Confederate failure on Missionary Ridge
- Nancy Kefauver, ambassador for the arts
- William Gibbs McAdoo kept his Southern roots
- Chattanooga's Secretary of the Treasury
- Howard Baker remembered as a statesman/photographer who snapped history
- Tivoli's last picture show
- The history of one of Chattanooga's oldest businesses
- Chattanooga's roller derby skaters
- Myths of Coca-Cola in Chattanooga
- Chattanooga's neighborhood grocery stores
- The tale of the Scottsboro Boys
- The people's history of Chattanooga
- Howard School is Chattanooga's reminder of Reconstruction
- Elevator operator, painter, mystery man: meet Rice Carothers
- Raulston Schoolfield made enemies amid his rise to power
- Website lets users peer into Chattanooga's past
- The flood of 1917
- Chattanooga's 'wickedest woman' buried at Forest Hills
- History of Cummings Highway
In 1930, Robert Martin asked his niece, Mayme, to come from South Carolina to Chattanooga to help manage his hotel. Robert, a former railroad dining car waiter, founded the Martin Hotel in 1924. Located on East Ninth Street on the site currently occupied by the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, the hotel featured 50 steam-heated rooms and a dining room serving three complete meals daily.
Born in 1904, the seventh of 18 children, Mayme Martin never intended to spend her life managing a hotel. An educator and graduate of Allen University in Aiken, S.C., she intended to continue her teaching career in Chattanooga. Upon learning teachers earned even less in Chattanooga than in South Carolina, she decided to remain at the hotel.
Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, hotels and restaurants were strictly segregated. Black travelers, including well-known athletes and entertainers, stayed and ate at usually black-owned hotels and restaurants in most of the U.S.
The Martín Hotel served black travelers and was the hub of Chattanooga black social life. Clubs and social groups as well as individuals met and dined together there.
The hotel prospered, and when Robert died in 1936, Mayme became the manager. According to her niece, Dr. Oneida Martin, Mayme was a formidable woman who "always spoke very loudly and with authority. She always said, 'In dealing with the public, you have to be in charge.' People had such respect for her, nobody ever gave her any trouble."
Just in case, Mayme kept two loaded pistols close by, stating in a 1985 Chattanooga Times interview, "I figured by the time I emptied both of them, the troublemakers would be gone." She never had to find out.
During its 61 years of operation, the Martin played host to many entertainers, including Cab Calloway, The Platters, Nat King Cole, Lena Horne, Mahalia Jackson and Ella Fitzgerald. Black band members from the 1930s and 1940s stayed at the Martin while playing at Memorial Auditorium. White band members stayed in exclusively white hotels.
A number of well-known athletes also stayed at the Martin including Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson and the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. During World War II, black soldiers often stayed there on their way through Chattanooga.
When celebrities arrived, often by bus, the word would get out, and crowds of excited fans would gather outside the hotel to greet them. Mayme, ever the considerate hotelier, kept the crowds out of the hotel so her guests "could get their rest."
She didn't fawn over her famous guests and did not permit her family or employees, some of whom were members of her family, to bother them. However, Mayme herself did have a favorite - Ella Fitzgerald. When the singer was at the hotel, the two would spend time chatting "about this and that."
According to Dr. Martin, who worked Saturdays at the hotel as a girl, her aunt "was always concerned about the (hotel's) image making sure everything looked just right. On special occasions she wanted "starched white linens on the tables." The floors were always shined.
Mayme was active in a number of community organizations, including the Elks Club Auxiliary, serving seven years as state president, the Eastern Star; the Mid-city Garden Club, which she founded; the State Federation of the Colored Women's Clubs; and the Daughters of Isis. She was a member of the Warren Chapel AME Church, serving on its board of trustees and its Women's Missionary Society.
By 1985, with segregation ended, the Martin had a number of permanent tenants. Black-owned businesses on Ninth Street decreased, and the street was re-named Martin Luther King Boulevard. The hotel fell into bad repair, and Mayme decided to close it, but not before locating a place for herself and her remaining tenants to live.
In a Nov. 1, 1985, Chattanooga Times interview, she stated the hotel's closing would not "be sad for me. I've been here for so long. I'm just about tired of it. It's hard work "
Mayme moved several blocks down Martin Luther King Boulevard and ran a rooming house for several of her former hotel tenants. On April 27, 1986, she died in a fire in her first-floor apartment started by an unattended electric iron. No one else was seriously injured.
Mayme Martin is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery. The Chattanooga Times attempted unsuccessfully to find a new owner to restore the Martin Hotel. The building was demolished in June 1986.
Gay Moore is an author, speaker and frequent contributor to this column. Visit Chatta historicalassoc.org for more information.