March 2004

Ethel Martin Bolden

Groundbreaking Librarian

Mrs. Ethel Martin Bolden, daughter of Thomas and Ethel Sinkler Martin, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and educated in the public schools of Richland District One. She attended Barber Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina and received her Bachelor of Science degree from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte. Subsequent to her undergraduate studies, Mrs. Bolden matriculated at Atlanta University where she earned her Master of Science degree in Library Science. Recognized as a pioneer librarian, Mrs. Bolden was employed for 39 years in Richland District One public schools. Dedicated to literary excellence, this honoree advocated the pursuit of knowledge through reading and speaking, inspiring others to a love of books and scholarly materials. Her commitment to equality of library services for African-American students lead Mrs. Bolden to establish the first black elementary school library at Waverly Elementary School.

Following service as W. A. Perry Junior High School librarian and due to her professional competence and interpersonal relations, she was appointed librarian at Dreher High School in Columbia representing the successful integration of Dreher faculty. Very active in professional associations such as the South Carolina Library Association and South Carolina Education Association, Mrs. Bolden utilized every opportunity available to her through organizations such as these to study, learn, and share knowledge. As a researcher, Mrs. Bolden explored avenues where she could acquire additional insight into black experiences in South Carolina and the United States and was instrumental in the donation of thousands of papers and other pertinent material to Columbia area libraries. Mrs. Bolden’s active membership on the Richland County Library Board of Trustees brought her special recognition, and a tree was planted in honor of her at the RCPL. She worked tirelessly for the 1993 construction of the nationally acclaimed Richland County Public Library in downtown Columbia.

Among her many civic involvements was membership on the South Carolina Human Relations Commission, the South Carolina State Museum Foundation Board of Directors, and the Columbia Community Relations Council. Mrs. Bolden dedicated her life to achieving peace among humanity as she demonstrated a commitment to bringing people of all races together. She was a founding member and elder at Northminster Presbyterian Church, a lifetime member of the NAACP, and a lifetime member of Gamma Nu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She was awarded the Order of the Silver Crescent for Volunteer and Community Service, the Order of the Palmetto, and was inducted into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame.

Mrs. Bolden was married to Charles F. Bolden, Sr., a legendary high school football coach in Columbia. They were the parents of two sons, former U.S. astronaut Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr., and Warren M. Bolden, Sr. Following a life of dedicated and distinguished service, Mrs. Bolden died on October 20, 2002.