Thomas Martin




A Legend in His Own Time


Artist: Frank Fleming

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Thomas Wesley Martin was born in Scottsboro, Jackson County, on August 13, 1881. He is considered by many to be the most significant business and civic leader of 20th century Alabama. An attorney, utilities executive, economic recruiter, research promoter, and booster for Alabama, he began his long career in Alabama as an assistant in the attorney general's office in 1903. Tom Martin was Chief Executive of Alabama Power Company from 1920 until 1963. He was one of several men of vision who realized the great power generating potential of Alabama’s rivers. Through development of dam sites in Alabama Tom Martin ensured that electricity was sent to every household in Alabama by the 1920's. Lake Martin was named for Tom Martin in 1936.

Tom personified the word leadership. He furthered economic development in the State and was insistent on having adequate places of recreation around the lakes that were dammed for electricity. Martin also helped organize the state chamber of commerce to coordinate and promote economic development. Mr. Martin chaired the first Community Chest Drive in Birmingham, which was later to become United Way and started the Newcomen Society in Alabama in 1938. In 1941 he started Southern Research Institute and helped to begin cancer research there. He threw himself into the work of the Institute and worked tirelessly to help those who were in need and were less fortunate than he. He was successful in convincing the U.S. Congress to create the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park to commemorate the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

For more than four decades, Martin was recognized as a national leader in the electric industry, honored by the Edison Electric Institute, Forbes Magazine, and others. But he never forgot his roots in the mountains of northern Alabama. The driving force of Martin's life was his love for Alabama and its people.


The piece of sculpture "Legend in His Own Time" was designed to depict the life of Thomas Wesley Martin. The turtle at the base of the sculpture represents rivers of Alabama. The words Electricity, Economic Development, Recreation and Environment represent four areas that Tom Martin was instrumental in bringing to this State. The eagle at the top represents a man who had keen vision and powerful wings. The bolts of electricity that are present are a symbol of Alabama Power Company, which Tom Martin helped build. The piece of sculpture is 12' tall.


Fleming was born in Bear Creek, Alabama in 1940, growing up on a cotton and corn farm in an isolated part of the state. His speech impediment and academic ability opened the door for him to attend Florence State College, now the University of North Alabama, for speech therapy. He took an art course on a whim, discovered he had a talent for drawing, and became an art major. He graduated hoping to teach, but positions in the school system were few, and instead he worked for six years at Boeing and NASA as a draftsman, eventually returning to school, receiving MA and MFA degrees from the University of Alabama.

Frank's work spoke to people beyond the South, and is included in numerous public and private collections, including all of the major art museums in Alabama, as well at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MFA Houston, and Palm Springs Museum, to name but a few. He received and completed numerous commissions for public art, was represented by galleries across the United States, and had over 40 solo exhibitions in his career.