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Merlin Martin

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Merlin Martin Obituary
Merlin Winston Martin, a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, went to be with the Lord April 12, 2013. His devotion to God and family, loyalty, warmth and friendship will be remembered by all who knew him. Winston was born on June 15, 1923 in San Antonio, and was the youngest of three sons of James and Lucille Martin. Winston was the product of Jefferson High School, Trinity University and the University of Texas. Fresh out of high school he worked at Kelly Air Force Base where he met his life-long friend, Ben Griffin. Ben and Winston decided to join-up in the Army Air Corps. Ben and Winston served together in the 2nd Engineer Overhaul Squadron in the Pacific Theatre. During his service to his country in and around the Philippines, Winston earned the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, the Good Conduct Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon and Victory Ribbon with four Overseas Service Bars. He was Honorably Discharged from the Army on October 28, 1945 as a Technical Sergeant. After he was discharged from the Army at Fort Sam, he enrolled at the University of Texas where he graduated with a Degree in City Planning in 1950. While in college, he was the president of the UT Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, president of the American Planners Association, president of the San Antonio Student Association and president of Alpha Chi Phi. While attending school, he also served as a Sunday school teacher at the University Baptist Church. This is where he met his future wife Shirley McCutcheon, who worked in the Architecture Library. They fell in love and were married on June 15, 1949. His wife taught school in Austin, while Winston finished his studies. After graduation, Winston and Shirley moved to San Antonio. His first job out of college was with the San Antonio Housing Authority. While working there he developed a life-long commitment to the poor and community renewal. When San Antonio adopted the council/manager form of government in 1954, the city contracted with Winston to develop the city's first official master plan so that the city would be eligible for critical federal funding. After completing the plan, he was asked to be the first Director of Planning for San Antonio. In that capacity he developed the procedures for subdivision control, zoning and town-hall meetings, and the processes he developed are still used today. While serving as the planning director, Winston was the president of the Texas Municipal League Chapter of Planning, and received the title of 'Planner-in-Charge' from the Governor of Texas. Shortly thereafter he was voted as 'Planner Emeritus' by the San Antonio Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. As Planning Director he had the tools to provide for future city growth, however the 1950 census showed that one-third of San Antonio was made up of slum and blight. Something had to be done and Winston went to work on obtaining federal funding for urban revitalization. This was a national issue at the forefront of the government. On July 4, 1956, Merlin Gary Martin was born. Winston and Shirley had begun their family. Shirley quit teaching and became a full time mother and housewife. On April 18, 1958 their second son Winston Alan Martin was born. The boys were joined by a sister, Lori Lucille on October 30, 1961. In 1960 Winston created and directed the San Antonio Development Agency. Under Winston's direction, there were 14 major urban renewal projects that received recognition and awards from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, The International Planning Association and Urban League. In 1966, his agency provided funding for much of the revitalization of downtown San Antonio including Milam Park, Columbus Park and Alamo Plaza. His agency negotiated the purchase of 92 acres of land that would become the site of the 1968 World's Fair - Hemisfair-The Fair of the Americas. Many buildings were constructed on the site including the Tower of the Americas, Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, Lila Cockrell Theater, Plaza Del Rio Hotel, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the Marriott River Center Hotel and the Fairmont Hotel. Further legacy of the 1968 World's Fair can be seen at the Institute of Texan Cultures, The John Wood Federal Courthouse and the Mexican Institute of Cultures. All of this was not only for the World's Fair, but to improve the lives of the people that were affected by the site while preserving historical buildings. It was also necessary to construct a river extension into the site and his agency obtained the funding necessary to make it happen. After the Fair, Winston focused his attention on the Vista Verde area. The Santa Rosa Hospital and the Robert E. Lee Hotel were landlocked and land was purchased to allow for their expansion. The most significant impact was that the work provided land for the downtown campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio. Winston took a special and personal interest in restoring the Farmer's Market area now known as El Mercado. While his project had visible impacts to the City of San Antonio, his commitment was always to the needs of the poor and others needing help. On the east and west sides of the city, Winston helped families relocate from substandard housing into affordable homes. He also worked with the city to improve water and sewer services to those areas, to improve the streets and provide sites for schools and parks in the neighborhoods. His efforts for revitalization were recognized locally, nationally and internationally. The late 1980's brought exciting new opportunities for Winston. Working with then Mayor Henry Cisneros, they focused their attention on the near east side. Winston and Henry spearheaded acquisition of the Alamodome site. This project not only provided a new home for Shirley's beloved Spur's, it provided sites for additional hotels and revitalized Sunset Station. It was Sunset Station where Winston decided to relocate the agency. Winston hired a great staff that helped him through the many years at the agency. Winston also worked with many mayors, councilmen, city managers, county judges, county commissioners, congressmen, senators, cabinet secretaries and many of the Presidents from Kennedy to Clinton. He remembers and cared for them all. His honesty, integrity and dedication to his community were recognized by all. Many of these people called him the 'Father of San Antonio' in their circle. In the 1990's, when he certainly could have simply retired, Winston received a new opportunity and challenge to help a larger number of people. He resigned from the agency he created and accepted a congressional appointment from Henry Cisneros to be a Special Assistant to the Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Winston was charged with directing the department programs and efforts to revitalize the colonias along the US/Mexico border from Texas to California. Winston championed "self-help" housing, provided water and sewer services to unserved areas, economic development, improved living conditions and provided more educational opportunities for children and adults. His work brought national attention to the living conditions in those in these areas. Winston loved traveling to Washington and was accompanied by Shirley on many occasions. After serving his nation again, Winston decided that it was time to move from the public sector to the private sector and became Vice-President of American City Vista. Here he worked for a firm that was committed to providing housing for "Middle America". The country was growing rapidly and there was a real need for affordable housing. Shortly after helping get the new company off the ground, Winston was selected to be the founding President of American Sunrise, a 501 non-profit corporation committed to providing housing to families that could not afford "affordable housing". His focus was on community development that provided housing, education, livelihood and progress for the under-privileged. Target neighborhoods were selected for assistance in language skills, money management, job placement, homemaking skills and health. He developed relationships with the neighborhood schools for fostering children and tutoring programs to help children finish high school. On June 15, 2004, Winston made the hardest decision of his life and retired at age 81 and his 54th wedding anniversary. Together with Shirley, they decided it was time for them to devote more time to their family, friends and church. This is not to say that Winston didn't feel he had time for his family, as he was always there for his children and wife serving as a booster parent or scout leader. He never forgot his family and took them on business trips with him during the summer. Winston and Shirley loved to travel and went to many exciting places. They visited Alaska, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and many other beloved national treasures. As a true workaholic, Winston continued to make himself available as a special consultant when needed. Winston is a dedicated Christian and a founding member of Trinity Baptist Church where he served as a Life Deacon and Sunday School teacher for over 65 years. He is survived by his wife of over 63 years Shirley, sons Merlin Gary Martin and wife Janet of Floresville; Winston Alan Martin and wife Fran of San Antonio; grandsons Merlin Gary Martin, Jr. and wife Charly, and his 6 year old great grand-daughter Emmalee Jean Martin of Floresville; Christopher Michael Martin and wife Shawn of Floresville; and nephew David Martin and wife Ursula of Germantown, Maryland. Those who know and love Winston, know that the "Planner Emeritus" is busy in heaven preparing a place for the love of his life, Shirley and his beloved family. In his spare time he'll be asking Jesus a lot of questions. He was preceded in death by his beloved daughter Lori. The family will have a private burial service in Comfort, Texas.
APRIL 17, 2013
3:00 P.M.

Rev. Dr. Les Hollon will officiate. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to HIS Broadcasting, Torchbearers, Trinity Baptist Church, Servants of the King, any VFW, or any charitable children's organization.

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Published in Express-News on Apr. 16, 2013
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