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Published on February 23rd, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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City Designates Room in Honor of Elise Jones Martin

Pictured seated Mrs. Elise Jones Martin

Columbia City Council members announced that the multipurpose room at the Charles R. Drew Wellness Center has been dedicated in honor of Mrs. Elise Jones Martin, an entrepreneur and a trailblazer, who operated a beauty salon in Columbia’s thriving African American business corridor.

The dedication was held on Saturday, February 7 during Mrs. Martin’s 100th birthday celebration.

In addition to running her own business, Mrs. Martin furthered her education at Allen University, Benedict College and South Carolina State University. She went on to teach cosmetology at Booker T. Washington High School and later became the first African American woman to open a business on Columbia’s Main Street.

Throughout her life, she worked on behalf of building strong communities. In the 1960s, her mother organized the Jones-McDonald Club to ensure neighbors took an active part in maintaining their neighborhood. After her mother passed away, Mrs. Martin carried on the tradition for many years. While in her 80s, Mrs. Martin visited her new neighbors to encourage them to join the neighborhood organization. Through her influence, the organization grew and went on to publish a newsletter and host an annual Easter brunch, that includes the participation of local elected officials, community representatives and faith leaders.

Mrs. Martin was also instrumental in providing community input for a Hope VI project that revitalized a former housing complex in Columbia. She then took her passion for building strong communities with her into public service. Mrs. Martin was a member of the Columbia Zoning Board for a number of years, serving until her late 80s. She was also an active member of Keep America Beautiful of the Midlands. Mrs. Martin also served on a special committee that played a formative role in the development and construction of Drew Wellness Center. Her vision and foresight as a community leader has been invaluable and her priority was to always represent the interests of the residents in her neighborhood and throughout Columbia. Due to Mrs. Martin’s commitment and devotion to her neighborhood, the City of Columbia dedicated the Elise Jones Martin Place in her honor, a development that brought new homes to the community.

She performed another community service by heading her voting precinct for more than 30 years. While working at the polls during the 2008 Presidential primary, she had the honor of meeting then Senator Barack Obama.

She has been an active member of Bethel AME Church since arriving in Columbia in the 1930s, where she has served on the Board of Education, Steward Board, and the gospel choir. She is a recipient of the Queen Esther Award, which is one of the highest honors for women at Bethel.

Her affiliations and memberships include: Board of Directors of the Drew Park, Renaissance Foundation Board, James E. Clyburn Golf Center Board, City Lighting Committee, City of Columbia Citizens Advisory Committee for Community Development, several neighborhood crime prevention programs and the W.A. Perry Middle School support group.

Mrs. Martin received numerous awards for her service including recognition by the Columbia City Council, the American Cancer Society, the Columbia Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Richland County School District One.

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