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Jean Martin selected Rotary Citizen of the Year

The Rotary Club of Selma named Jean Thompson Martin as its Citizen of the Year at its Monday meeting.

The award was presented by Jamie Wallace, who 16 years ago was Rotary’s first Citizen of the Year. In addition to presenting her with a plaque, the club donates $1,000.00 to the Rotary Foundation in her honor. This makes her a Paul Harris Fellow.

Several other former Citizens were present at the ceremony, including Byrd Looper and Ramsey Knight.

“Jean truly loves this community and has labored for Selma for many, many years,” said Wallace.

Martin said that she had been invited to hear Wallace speak, and had no idea that she was to be honored until she arrived at the St. James and saw that her son David Martin and two of her Wilkerson nephews were present.

“I was completely surprised,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed the Rotary meetings I’ve attended, but this is one I’ll never forget.”

Alston Fitts spoke briefly, noting that Martin had suffered “slings and arrows” over the years because of her efforts to bridge Selma’s racial gap. She was one of the founders of the Old Depot Museum, which strives to include all the town’s history, “from Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond.”

“Jean played a major role in the erection of monuments to both Ben Turner, our state’s first African American Congressman, and James Reeb, the only ‘Selma martyr’ to actually be struck down here.”

Nancy Sewell, who served with Martin on the Selma City Council, had planned to speak about “all the things Jean has done to benefit this city” and what a great friend she is. But Sewell proved unable to attend.

Previous winners of Rotary’s highest honor have included Kathryn Windham, Becky Cothran Nichols, Seymour Cohn, John Crear, Rev. Charles Lett, Dr. Sam Moseley, Judge Johnny Jones, B.M. Miller Childers, Jerry Siegael, Larry Striplin, Julius Talton, and Art Scroggins.