Samuel Manor Martin was born on October 30, 1875 on a plantation near Allendale, South Carolina to Captain Benjamin Martin and Cather Maner Martin. Even though his birthplace was a former plantation, his parents were of modest means and income from farming was meager. His father and grandfather served in the Confederate Army and his father was wounded during that war. His mother died before he was six years old. He attended public school in Allendale for 3 months a year (that was the school year in Allendale in those years) and the remaining part of the year in a private school in Macon, Georgia. He learned to love mathematics from a high school teacher in Macon. He took a competitive examination for a scholarship to the Citadel and was awarded the scholarship ($300 per year--enough for the school fees, books, and uniforms). At about this time his father gave up farming and moved to Washington, DC. Samuel spent his college summers in Washington and was able to see the many government and historical points of interest there.
After graduation in 1896 he went to the Johnston Institute in Edgefield County and taught mathematics for two years. In the summer of 1898, he was employed to teach mathematics (as an Instructor) and help Colonel A.G. Shanklin in the Military Department at Clemson College. He soon acquired the name "Major" for being an assistant to the Colonel, which stuck with him the rest of his life. His salary was $600 in 1898; $800 in 1899; $900 in 1900 when he was promoted to Assistant Professor; $1000 in 1901; and $1200 in 1902 (when he was promoted to Professor of Mathematics).
In 1901 he married Miss Conway Simpson of Pendleton (the daughter of Colonel and Mrs. R.W. Simpson) and eventually they had four children: S.M. Martin Jr. (1903-1986), Benjamin Martin (1903-1996), R.S. Martin (1903-1981), and Maria Garlington Martin Lucas (?-2000). Mrs. Martin died in 1948. His second marriage was to Evelyn Gasque from eastern South Carolina some years later.
He was promoted to the Head of the four-man Mathematics Department in 1908. He remained Head until the year 1947 (at which time there were 18 in the Department), a year before his retirement. He saw great changes in the College during his 50 years but observed that the campus always filled with bright-eyed, eager youths every fall. The class of 1918 had his portrait painted at some class reunion and for years it hung in the Chapel (Tillman Auditorium) together with the founding educators at Clemson University.
The portrait now hangs in Martin Hall (O Section). His name is also on the cornerstone of the outdoor amphitheater, built in about 1937. A former student remembers that he was somewhat formal, had a quiet sense of humor in the classroom, and he was always impeccably dressed (bow tie, stiff white collar, and usually a coat).
He was a charter member of the Clemson Methodist Church, serving as superintendent of the Sunday school for many years. He also was active in the campus YMCA, served as Chairman of the Advisory Board in 1917, and remained on the Board until 1951 (a total of 34 years). He was one of the first organizers for a school system in the Clemson-Calhoun area and served on the local school board and the Board of Education in Oconee County for many years. Major Martin was active in the Masonic Lodge, rose to Grand Master in 1939, and was awarded the Albert Galletin Mackey Medal. He was a charter member of the local Chapter of Knights Templer which was organized and named the Martin Commanderery #17.
Major Martin died in 1959 after being ill only one day. One of his sons, S.M. Martin Jr. received a Clemson degree, an MS in Chemistry at UNC, and a PhD degree from the University of Pittsburgh and was president of the Thiokel Corporation in Yardley, Pennsylvania. R.S. Martin lived in Los Angeles, and both Benjamin V. Martin and Mrs. John P. Lucas lived in Charlotte.
Major Martin is buried on Cemetery Hill on the Clemson University campus. In 1962 the Mathematical Science building complex (offices for the Mathematical Sciences Department, classrooms equipped for computers, a remote site for the Computer Center, and a part of the administration complex) was named after him.
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