Frank Martin: A Blue Devil through and through
Billy Woods remembers West Memphis’s biggest booster
West Memphis School District
Blue was Frank Martin's color.
Each Friday for at least 25 years Martin wore a blue shirt every Friday.
Blue represented his two favorite sports teams: The West Memphis Blue Devils and the Memphis Tigers.
Last Friday, Devil Nation and the entire West Memphis community lost one of its favorite sons as Martin passed away.
His son, Thomas, said his Dad will appropriately be laid to rest on Friday with his signature blue shirt.
Due to Covid19, a private service will be held Friday at Holy Cross Episcopal Church at 11 a.m. A graveside service at 12:30 p.m.
at Crittenden Memorial is open to the public.
Martin, 76, was the heart and soul of West Memphis. He owned Delta Office Supply for 37 years and was the city's treasurer since January of 1996.
And, he was perhaps the biggest supporter of Blue Devil athletics.
'There were probably six things that kept his heart pumping,' said Thomas.
'His family, his church, his work, the Blue Devils and the Tigers.'
Born in Kansas City, Martin's family moved to West Memphis when he was an infant.
Martin put his stamp on the community at a young age, becoming the first carrier for the Evening Times and before that he was a carrier for the West Memphis Sun, a forgotten local periodical that preceded the Evening Times.
'He would ride his bike at 4 in the morning at age 12 and from Woods Street to 25th Street he delivered papers to every block,' said Thomas. 'Then he'd go to school and then play baseball until dark.'
Martin was a proud member of the Class of 1962 at West Memphis High School.
A few years ago he sponsored a huge banner in Lehr Arena that reads 'Once a Blue Devil, always a Blue Devil. Frank Martin, Class of 1962.'
Martin was present at almost every seminal moment in Blue Devil sports history. He was at Russellville in 2000 when the Blue Devil football team, led by D'Arrius Howard, set a national rushing record for one game.
'He loved that game,' Thomas said.
He sat in tornadic conditions and a torrential downpour in Fort Smith in 1988 as the Blue Devil football team played in the state semifinals.
He watched the Blue Devil boys basketball team defeat Corliss Williamson and the great Basil Shabazz in the early 1990s.
'Plus, my most favorite, Dad hated Jonesboro in every sport,' Thomas said with a sly grin. 'I'm for sure going to miss my game buddy.'
Blue Devil coaches had special friendships with Martin, including former great football coach Grafton Moore.
'We're going to miss Frank in all kinds of ways,' said Moore. 'He may be the best Blue Devil supporter we've ever had. Everybody loved him. I loved him and he was just fun to be around. We'll miss him, but I knew his faith and I know he's in a better place.'
Martin made sure his son and daughter, Pam, grew up attending Blue Devil ball games. Thomas was perhaps the biggest student supporter of the Big Blue when he was a student at both West Junior High and WMHS.
Sometimes Thomas' overzealousness got the better of him.
When Tommy was a ninthgrader he attended the junior high district basketball tournament in Jonesboro.
Copying a student body tradition at the University of Memphis, Tommy let the confetti fly on the Blue Imps' first basket of the game.
It was enough to get him sent to the principal's office the next day.
'I got no admonishment from Dad when I got home,' Tommy said, laughing. 'If anything, he reimbursed me for the cost of the paper.'
Later, Tommy joined the Blue Devil radio broadcast crew that included the late Todd Eaton, David Pike and Joe Todd.
'When Tommy was part of the broadcast team, Frank was very supportive of the radio broadcasts,' remembered Pike. 'I think for like four years there Frank never missed a game, home or away. Frank was such a big part of the community.
It's going to be strange going to Blue Devil ball games and not seeing him there.'
The fervor for Blue Devil sports was even passed down to Frank's grandchildren Kennedy, Pam's daughter who is now a student at Ole Miss, and Tommy's children Abby, a rising volleyball player, and Caleb, who is a star baseball player entering the seventh grade at West.
'My Dad dragged the grandkids to all the Blue Devil games,' said Tommy. 'It wasn't 'Are we going?' It was 'What time do we leave?''