If you don’t recognize Jimmie Martin at first glance try to picture him with a red nose, oversized shoes and an outrageous outfit.
Martin, who was born and raised in Yadkin County, is not only a well-respected pastor in the Baptist and Methodist faiths, but he has also spent some time acting like a clown to improve the lives of others.
Martin was born in Yadkinville and raised in the Courtney area. He graduated from Courtney High School, where at the age of 17 he vowed he would leave the country setting of Yadkin County and never return.
“Someone told me years ago that if you were born in Yadkin County then you would come back to Yadkin County, and I always said ‘no way’ because I dreamed of moving away from Yadkin County and the tobacco fields when I was 17 years old,” Martin said.
He left the county to attend school at High Point University where he obtained a degree in music, and then he moved on to Forth Worth Texas Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he was ordained a southern Baptist minister. He graduated and ended up returning to his home church, Courtney Baptists to act as pastor for a few years.
“I’ve been in ministry since the day I was born,” Martin said. “There was never ever really any other consideration for me except to be a teacher and they are both related so closely. It just happened that way because I didn’t know anything else.”
Martin would later go on to earn his PhD in behavioral science at Oxford Graduate School in Dayton, TN. Martin began work as a recreation director at Baptist Children’s Home in Thomasville where his wife, Loretta, worked. This is where his clown career would begin.
“When you work with youth you do whatever is trendy at the time,” Martin said. “I got my behavioral sciences degree, but I specialized in recreation and self-esteem in teenagers. That’s where my clown career started.”
Martin said that he also had a clown troop at every church he was working in from then on.
After several years of working in ministry Martin felt there was something missing in his life and decided that he needed to venture out of his comfort zone and try something new. He decided to write a book which he would title “You’ve got to laugh and keep on laughing.”
He didn’t realize how instrumental his book would be to his future until he received a special invitation in his email one day. He had filled out an application to go on a trip to Russia with Patch Adams, an eccentric medical doctor who has been immortalized on film by actor Robin Williams. The trip would be for people with a history of clown performance and would take the group to orphanages and children’s hospitals around Russia.
“Patch Adams’ motto for the trip to Russia was that we were going to bring a bit of joy to the hurting children who reside in orphanages and children hospitals,” Martin said.
Martin’s application was accepted and he was excited to go on the trip until he realized how much the cost would be. The trip’s ticket price was between $5,000 and $6,000 and Martin didn’t have the money to go.
“I talked it over with the education director at the church I was working at and she told me to I should tell the congregation about my book that was about to be published and allow them to purchase the books and make donations towards my trip as mission project for them,” Martin said. “Surely enough I finished my book and put it up for sale and I sold all of the books and in about two to three months I had all of my $5,000 raised.”
Martin said that he packed his things for 15 cold days in Russia, put on his costume and headed to the airport in Washington, DC to meet his fellow clown travelers and Patch Adams.
“There must have been 100 people in line at customs and 30 of us were clowns,” Martin said. “They picked one clown out of the entire clan to strip search and that was me.”
Martin finally made it through the checkpoints and wound up safely in Russia where he and the 30 other charitable clowns brought smiles and joy to hundreds of Russian children.
“That was the best experience that I’ve ever had and it feels like I was just there yesterday,” Martin said.
Today Martin still likes to pull on his clown gear and go out to talk to organizations and clubs about his experiences and spread the word about the work that Patch Adams is doing.
When he’s not standing in a pulpit or entertaining children Martin is working part-time as a counselor. He’s had many part-time counseling offices and he is even trained in hypnotism as well as traditional counseling methods.
He wound up moving to High Rock Lake in 1989. But despite his best efforts Martin will be returning to Yadkin County once again now that he and his wife have bought a home on Old Stage Road in order to be closer to their sons, Marty and Jamison, and their only grandchild.
“We have two sons who live in Deep Creek with their wives and we have one grandson who is our pride and joy and he’s only four,” Martin said. “My wife was determined that we were going to get close to our grandson so that she could take him back and forth to school so that’s how we wound up here.”
Martin said that he and his wife still own their home at High Rock Lake and will continue to commute while they both are still working part-time in Davidson County. When they decide to retire they will make Yadkin County their full-time home and Martin hopes to start a part-time counseling office out of his home.
“I would like to build a part-time counseling practice to be of help,” Martin said. “I don’t want to get rich off of it or anything.”
Martin said that he also hopes to continue working in the ministry when he comes to Yadkin County but he doesn’t have any plans set out just yet.
“I’ve been in ministry all of my life, and that’s what I feel comfortable doing,” Martin said.
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.