Elise Jones Martin
Born in Hartsville, S.C., on February 7, 1915, Mrs. Elise Jones Martin’s lifetime has spanned nineteen U.S. presidents, four major wars, and two pandemics.
Mrs. Martin moved to Columbia from New Jersey to open a beauty salon in the 1930s, creating a legacy of entrepreneurship and community service. As a Waverley resident, she championed the value of safe, viable neighborhoods and led the Jones-McDonald Club, one of Columbia’s most successful neighborhood advocacy groups. Martin is the oldest member of the Bethel AME Church.
Mrs. Martin received cosmetology training in New Jersey and took classes at South Carolina State University, Allen University, and Benedict College. During 62 years in business, she opened Elise Beauty Shop on Washington Street’s Black Wall Street and later opened a wig boutique to become one of the first African American business owners on Main Street. She taught cosmetology for 27 years at Booker T. Washington High School and mentored students in the profession. She volunteered with many groups including the Columbia Housing Authority, Zoning Board, and America Beautiful Committee. Believing that citizens should participate in the change they seek, she headed her voting precinct for more than 30 years. While then Senator Barack Obama was campaigning in Columbia for the presidency, a photo was captured and widely circulated of Ms. Martin giving him advice and encouragement.
She is a recipient of the Enduring Spirit Award from the Columbia Museum of Art, along with accolades from the Columbia City Council and the American Cancer Society. She has served on the boards of Drew Park, the Renaissance Foundation, Clyburn Golf Center Committee, and Columbia Citizens Advisory committee for Community Development and Neighborhood Crime Prevention Programs.
Later in life, she moved to Palo Alto, Calif. to live with her daughter, but remains connected with happenings in Columbia.