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Martin retires from funeral home

Jimmy Martin semi-retired in September after working 50 years at the family-owned Martin Funeral Home.

It’s semi because he’ll still help out when asked, saying he owes to all the workers at the funeral home.

“Due to their dedication, I’m not going to walk away,” said Martin. “I’ll be available if they need me.”

Martin started working at the funeral home with his father, Leroy Martin, when he was 7 years old.

“When he said, ‘Come on, boy,’ that’s when I had to go,” Martin said.

Martin tried other jobs but kept coming back to the funeral home. He was the first police dispatch radio operator in Chilton County and went to work with the Alabama Highway Department after graduating high school.

“As long as I stayed at home, I still had to help daddy,” Martin said.

In December 1959, Martin’s father suffered a massive hemorrhage and the younger Martin was asked to oversee the family’s business. Leroy Martin passed away a few months later in March 1960. His son has been working there ever since.

Martin estimates the funeral home oversees more than 200 funerals a year. He said he believes the profession is a calling.

“You’re working with people who are under the most pressure they’ve ever had in their lives,” said Martin. “Each death you are involved with, if it doesn’t affect you, then there’s something wrong with you.”

Martin also followed in his father’s footsteps by serving as Chilton County Coroner for nine terms, from 1962 until his election into the Alabama House of Representatives in 1998.

Counting his four terms as Chilton County’s representative to Montgomery, Martin has compiled 48 years of public service.

He does plan to run for reelection in 2010 and has several things he wants to accomplish.

However, he also plans to spend more time with his family now that he’s not going into work every day.

“I’m going to focus more on my family. I love my family, but they have taken a back seat,” said Martin.

Martin and his wife, Norma, have been married for almost 47 years. They have two children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

What is now Martin Funeral Home was founded in 1921 in downtown Clanton. The business moved to south Clanton in 1952 and has been at its present location on Fourth Avenue since 1966.

Jimmy Martin’s brother, Probate Judge Bobby Martin, and sister, Mary Mell Smith, are still involved in the business on a day-to-day basis. Several of their children also work at the funeral home.