Martha Walker On Landrum’s education heritage

Published 11:20 pm Friday, April 1, 2016

FEATURE bookcover

By Michael O’Hearn

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Martha Walker, wife of Spartanburg County councilman Bob Walker, has worked with community members for six years compiling the history of the schools of Landrum, S.C. since the 1880s.


She worked at Landrum High School for 22 ½ years as a math teacher before retiring in 2001. In 2010, Landrum High School principal Brian Sherman approached her and asked her to write a short history of the school.


“I told him that I didn’t really know a whole lot about the history even though I taught there for 22 years,” Walker explained.


Sherman approached Walker a second time to write the book, in order to get the school’s early history from people before they passed away.

Martha Walker

Martha Walker


“He kept asking and I finally said that my arm hurt so much from where he was twisting it so hard,” Walker joked. “I finally agreed to it and it was an effort of a lot of people, which I want to stress. We spent two years collecting information and compiling lists of teachers and others associated with the school.”


This work expanded to include all of Landrum’s schools since the 1880s. In 1949, at the time when Walker was an elementary school student, Spartanburg County had 102 school districts. Today, the county has seven districts.


“We tried to look at the whole picture of how the Landrum schools and the educational process were affected by various school laws, finances and the world situation,” Walker explained. “Assisted by former Superintendent Dr. Jimmy Littlefield and former O.P. Earle Elementary School Principal Walker Williams, we wanted to get the perspectives of people associated with the schools from the other side of the desk, so to speak.”


Outside the politics of the school system, the book also includes sports statistics and players and yearbook photos from as far back as the 1940s. Walker said she finally got the book in her hands a week ago.


“The thing that impressed me the most was the stories of the different teachers and principals, even the support staff,” Walker said. “That’s why I dedicated the book to those people because without them, the school would be nothing. It was important to me to help bring them to life as well as the history.”


Walker enlisted the help of local high school student J.J. Carruth to do his senior project on interviewing people who had been through the Landrum school system during the timeframe of the book. She said she remembered one particular interview Carruth did with Cliff Walden, who graduated from Landrum High School in 1944.


“Walden was correct in saying the essential part of Landrum schools was and still is the people who work there,” Walker recalled. “Each individual has influenced hundreds of students who have been under their care during the decades of this history.”


According to her, each decade she studied exhibited a separate personality. The book serves as a 200-page reference almanac for students and the community and will be put in the Landrum Library as well as the libraries of the schools.


“Another thing that surprised me most was the consolidation period when I was in elementary school,” Walker explained. “There were high schools in Gramling, Campobello, New Prospect and all of those and so we had lots of schools but it was just contained in one small district. I found that fascinating on how they did that. Consolidation isn’t fun.”


Landrum school integration, which occurred while Walker was living and teaching in Selma, Ala., was something Walker wanted to learn more about and she said she and her team handled the situation well.


“Everything that we could find out about the Landrum schools is what we’ve written in there,” Walker said. “We hope to use the profits from the book to put historical signs up at each location of the 10 schools Landrum once had.”


Walker said she hopes students from each of the three schools in Landrum get the opportunity to read the book in order to get a grasp on the big picture.


“When you’re a student, you’re so involved with your own activities that you don’t really get a chance to grab the big picture,” Walker said. “Even though I went through the Landrum schools and the high school, I never knew what was happening at the elementary level. It was interesting to find out, ‘Oh, we did that.’”


Walker will give a presentation on the history of Landrum’s schools at Landrum Library at 6:30 p.m. on April 21. The book, Landrum Schools Through the Decades, 1880s-1990s, will be on sale then for $20. It will also be sold afterwards at O.P. Earle Elementary School and Landrum Middle School on Redland Road, and at Landrum High School on Hwy. 176. To contact Walker to purchase a book, call her at 864-457-4669 or email her at Shipping will cost an additional $5.