Ex-senator focuses on constructive tasks in new life
PICKENS, S.C. (AP) — Dressed in a blue carpenter’s apron, former state Sen. Larry Martin glanced at the flat-screen television hanging on the wall of his spacious workshop.
For 38 years, being a lawmaker was a major part of his life. The 61-year-old Republican from Pickens started in the House in 1979 and was elected to the Senate in 1992.
But he’s been out of the legislative game for two years now.
“I do keep up a little bit, but I don’t watch the Legislature in session,” said Martin, smiling. “That would be a bit boring thing to do.”
More constructive tasks take his time.
In the Legislature he rose in leadership positions to become chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. He oversaw legislation that increased domestic violence penalties and required lawmakers to disclose their sources of income.
He lost to Sen. Rex Rice in the GOP primary in 2016.
Soon after, former Sen. John Land of Manning, who retired from the Senate in 2017 after 41 years, called Martin and left a message.
“He said, ‘Larry, I just want you to know there is life after the Senate.’”
And Martin said he has found that to be true.
He has moved on to take on volunteer roles with area charities and work in his wood shop.
“I miss the friendships,” Martin told The Greenville News. “And I miss working on issues. I had a great staff and great camaraderie with folks in the Gressette Building and the Statehouse. What I don’t miss were all the trips down the road to Columbia. I don’t think until you get out of it you appreciate just what a time-consuming ordeal that really is, all that time in the car.”
Martin now works more in his church, First Baptist Church in Pickens, and volunteers with Upstate Warrior Solution in Pickens, a veterans assistance group, as well as a local cancer aid society, and he serves on the board of the Baptist Easley Hospital Foundation, which raises money for the hospital..
David Whittemore, chairman of the foundation board, said he has known Martin since Martin first became a legislator.
“I think the world of him,” he said. “He’s a man of integrity and honesty. He’s a good fellow.”
Pointing out how Martin waited until after his election defeat to take on new roles in the community, Whittimore said, “His loss was our gain, for sure.”
Martin also serves as co-chair of a community action board for Upstate Warriors in Pickens County.
“He’s been instrumental in helping us make connections within Pickens County and also at the state level,” said Derrick Popham, tri-county director for Upstate Warrior.
Among those connections, Popham said, has been with the Dream Center, which aids the homeless in Pickens County. And Martin has helped the Dream Center as well, Popham said.
“As busy as Larry is, getting pulled in multiple directions, he’s always been available to us, whether by phone call, email or just in person dropping by to sell hello,” Popham said. “He’s always available to help.”
Until this summer, Martin had worked for 37 years as an executive with Alice Manufacturing. But he worked on a part-time basis because of his legislative duties and planned to continue that way after the election to give him more time for charitable work and his wood shop.
The company, which Martin said had downsized over the years, closed its Pickens plant this summer, and that ended his career with the company.
So Martin has had even more time to volunteer and work on wood projects.
The carpentry bug bit Martin early in life, he said. His grandfather was a carpenter, and he did some work with him before he died when Martin was a teenager.
He took shop classes in the 8th and 9th grades, he said, and the teacher got him interested as well.
“I bought some of my first tools, some of which I still have, while I was in high school,” he said. “It’s been a lifelong thing. I just haven’t had the time to do what I wanted to do.”
In the summer of 1999, Martin got serious about his passion and framed a workshop behind his house.
“Woodworking in some respects is cheaper than golf, but it’s still not a cheap hobby,” he said.
He’s built cabinets for Habitat For Humanity, a dining table and chairs for his outside porch, and he was crafting some family gifts with wood in late November.
“You’ve got to get ahead of the game, because Santa’s coming,” he said with a laugh.
Over the years he’s added improvements to the shop.
He built a separate paint booth in an adjoining room so he can paint no matter the weather.
He now has a bevy of power tools and tables, including saws, a drill press, a belt sander and a lathe, all on wheels so they can be moved around. He built much of what is in the shop, from cabinets to the tables he uses for his work or stands to hold boards for sawing. He built a vice into one of his tables — that was “quite the ordeal.” An extensive and powerful air collection system sucks up wood chips as they are made and deposits them via hoses into an adjoining room, where he also stores his wood.
He also built a bathroom in the shop, and it is heated and cooled. On one wall he’s screwed into the wood most of his legislative license plates. A few decades ago, he said, a young student asked if he could borrow a plate. He gave him the plate, Martin said, but never saw it again.
“So I said, ‘If I screw them in the wall, I won’t be doing that again,’” he said laughing.
While he is normally alone in his shop, Martin said that doesn’t bother him.
“I miss the social part of the day you have when you are working, but you get over it,” he said. “Nobody talks back to you.”
He said while he keeps up with major issues, he has stopped himself from attending public meetings because he wants to leave that job to the elected officials responsible.
“Every now and then I’ll say, ‘I need to write a letter to the local paper,’ and then it will hit me, ‘No, you don’t.’ My wife doesn’t even have to tell me that.”
He said he has no plans at the moment to try running for office again.
“I think my wife would probably have me committed,” he said.
His volunteer work has given him a new perspective on those who help others in communities.
“I think when you’re busy all those years like I was, you see it but you don’t — how people are out there contributing in so many different ways,” he said. “I think that’s what we all need to do as much as we can, to try and give back and contribute, not for anybody else to know about but just to do it because it needs to be done.”
Information from: The Greenville News, http://www.greenvillenews.com