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Profiles from the Archives: Roy V. Martin

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

Roy Vernon Martin was born on November 8, 1897, in the community Long Shoals in Gaston County, N.C., to Zebulon Vance and Mary Clara Allen Martin. By 1900, the Martin family was living in Lincolnton, N.C., where Zebulon Martin worked as a cotton warper at a cotton mill in Lincoln County, N.C. By 1910, the Martins had moved to the Crowder Mountain region of Gaston County, Zebulon Martin worked as a speeder in a cotton mill in the region; Roy Martin was the oldest of six children in the family at this time.

On June 24, 1916, Roy Martin enlisted in the North Carolina National Guard in Gastonia, N.C., and assigned to Company B, 1st Infantry, in the National Guard. He would serve in the North Carolina National Guard when it was called to the Mexican border on in 1916 as part of the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa. After the United States entered World War I, Roy Martin was called into active federal military service in 1917 when the North Carolina National Guard was called into service. He would serve during the war in Company D, 105th Engineers Regiment, 30th Division, U.S. Army. Alston went with his North Carolina National Guard company to Camp Sevier, South Carolina, for basic training, and remained in the 105th Engineers through September 21, 1917. On that date, Martin was transferred to Company A, 115th Machine Gun Battalion, 30th Division, U.S. Army—in which unit he remained until being discharge from active duty.


Martin remained at Camp Sevier through May 1918. While at Camp Sevier, he would take the train home to Gastonia, going to church with and courting a young Lillian Augusta Cloniger. As of May 3, 1918, Martin was in quarantine at Camp Sevier for an unknown illness or disease. Roy Martin served overseas in Europe during WWI from May 11, 1918, when his unit left the United States, to March 22, 1919, when Martin returned by troop transport to the United States. By August 1918, Martin and his unit were stationed along the front lines in Belgium. As of September 1918, Martin was back in France. Martin reached the rank of Private First Class on December 1, 1917. On October 14, 1918, he reached the rank of Corporal. During his time stationed in France, Martin played basketball for the 115th Machine Gun Battalion basketball team, which would play against British and other American units in camp. Martin’s letters home to his family were occasionally reprinted in the local Gastonia Gazette newspaper.

Roy Martin arrived back in the United States on March 22, 1919, at Newport News, Virginia, aboard the troop transport ship USS Finland, and sent to Camp Stuart nearby for processing out. He was honorably discharged on April 2, 1919, from active military service at Camp Jackson, S.C. After his discharge, Roy Martin was one of a group of fifteen WWI veterans from Gaston County who applied for and received approval to form the Gaston Post of the American Legion.


After the war, Roy Martin returned to his family’s home in Gastonia, N.C., to live with the large family by 1920. Roy Martin would marry his wartime girlfriend, Lillian Augusta Cloniger (nicknamed “Gussie”) of Gastonia on June 20, 1920, in Gastonia. Interestingly, Lillian was between 13 and 16 years old while the two were exchanging correspondence during WWI, and they married when she was around 17 years old. Between 1920 and 1923, Roy Martin continued to serve on yearly enlistments it appears in the North Carolina National Guard.

By 1930, the Martins had moved to Charlotte, N.C., where Roy worked as a government officer. Between 1932 and 1933, Roy Martin was working as a Prohibition investigator and agent in Charlotte with the U.S. Bureau of Prohibition. After 1933 when Prohibition was repealed, Martin would find other work at the height of the Great Depression as a salesman by 1934, and remained working as a salesman through 1937.

By 1940, Roy Martin was working as a candy salesman in Charlotte. Sometime after World War II, Martin had relocated to California. Roy V. Martin died on April 13, 1956, in Humboldt County, California, and was buried in Sunset Memorial Park in Eureka, California. 

To learn more about Roy Martin’s WWI service, check out the Roy V. Martin Papers (WWI 80) in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.