Beloved entertainer and railroad-loving hobo Lecil Travis Martin, better known to his fans around the world as country singer BoxCar Willie, passed away on Monday, April 12, 1999, at his home in Branson, Missouri.
Born on September 1, 1931, in Sterrett, Texas, to Birdie Brown and Edna Jones Martin, BoxCar was also a U.S. Air Force veteran – he retired as a Master Sergeant after serving 22 years.
BoxCar began his music career as a small boy singing with his church choir. He continued performing as Marty Martin, and although he developed a following in America, it was a series of popular European tours – culminating in a performance at the 1979 Wembley International Festival of Country Music in Wembley, England – that made him a star.
By 1980, he finally found success in his own country. A year later, he became the 60th member of the Grand Ole Opry, was awarded "Most Promising Male Vocalist" by the Country Music Association, and his TV album "King of the Road" earned double-platinum sales. He made regular appearances on television's Hee Haw and Family Feud, and appeared in several movies, including Sweet Dreams, a film about country-music start Patsy Cline, Gordy, and A Place to Grow. Then, in 1986, he purchased the BoxCar Willie Theater in Branson, and began performing to numerous sold-out crowds.
On October 31, 1996, after having felt tired for a couple of months, Box was told by doctors that he was suffering from the most aggressive type of leukemia, mantle zone lymphatic leukemia. He began a spirited battle for his life – even while undergoing chemotherapy, BoxCar performed six nights a week at his theater. His difficult struggle came to an end on April 12 in his Branson home, where he was surrounded by his family.
He is survived by his wife, Lloene Johnson Martin, of Branson; four children, PaulaKay Lane of Korea, Tammy Martin LaCore of Ridgedale, Missouri, and twins Larry Martin of Hollister, Missouri and Lorrie Martin Brown of Branson; a brother, Rex Birdie Martin of Plano, Texas; three sisters, Doris Shipp of Jacksonville, Texas, Margie Vantreese of Waxahachie, Texas, and Wilma Allison of Duncanville, Texas; and five grandchildren, Jenae Martin, Christian Rock, Amanda LaCore, Travis LaCore, and Tiffany Martin.