—  City  —
Official seal of Martinsville,Virginia
Coordinates: 36°41′10″N 79°52′9″W / 36.68611, -79.86917
Country United States
State Virginia
 • Mayor Kim Adkins
 • Total 11.0 sq mi (28.5 km2)
 • Land 11.0 sq mi (28.4 km2)
 • Water 0.1 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation 1,017 ft (310 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 13,821
 • Density 1,407/sq mi (543.1/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 24112-24115
Area code(s) 276
FIPS code 51-49784[1]
GNIS feature ID 1498514[2]

Home of Henry Clay Lester, early tobacco manufacturer, Main Street, Martinsville. Home burned in the early 1940s

Henry County Courthouse Square, Martinsville, circa 1890.

Martinsville is an independent city which is surrounded by Henry County, Virginia, United States.[3] The population was 13,821 in 2010.[4] The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Martinsville with Henry County for statistical purposes. The paper clip-shaped Martinsville Speedway, the shortest track in NASCAR stock car racing [0.526 miles (0.847 km)] and also one of the first paved "speedways", being built in 1947, is located just outside the city in the town of Ridgeway.

Martinsville is the principal city of the Martinsville Micropolitan Statistical Area, a micropolitan area that covers Henry County and the city of Martinsville.[5] The micropolitan area had a combined population of 73,346 as of the 2000 census.[1]


General Joseph Martin (1740–1808), born Albemarle County, Virginia, died Henry County, Virginia

Martinsville was founded by American Revolutionary War General, Indian agent and explorer Joseph Martin, born in Albemarle County,[6] whose plantation Scuffle Hill was located on the banks of the Smith River near the present-day southern city limits. General Martin and revolutionary patriot Patrick Henry, who lived briefly in Henry County and for whom the county is named, were good friends.

The city's chief industry for many early years was the manufacture of plug chewing tobacco. The Henry County area became known as the 'plug tobacco capital of the world.' In the wake of the collapse of the plantation economy following the American Civil War, the local economy had been left reeling. Stepping into the breach were several thriving plug firms which sold their merchandise across the nation beginning in the nineteenth century.

Local families were heavily involved in these companies, bestowing their names on them and reaping sizeable profits until the early twentieth century, when the tobacco monopolies created by R.J. Reynolds and James Buchanan Duke bought out most firms. (In most cases, in bold anti-competitive moves, the two tobacco titans simply shut down their acquisitions overnight.[7] The moves later prompted a U.S. government lawsuit against American Tobacco Company.[8]) Among the earliest of these firms were D.H. Spencer & Sons and Spencer Bros. Other families soon joined in founding other early firms, including the Gravelys, the Comptons, the Ruckers, the Wittens, the Lesters and the Browns.

The city's main industry for a century was furniture construction, and today Virginia furniture makers still reside in the region. Shortly after World War II, DuPont built a chemical manufacturing plant. The booming chemical industry led to Martinsville declaring itself an independent city in 1928, while still retaining its status as county seat.

DuPont later built a large manufacturing plant for producing nylon, a vital war material, which made the city a target for strategic bombing during the Cold War. This nylon production jump-started the growth of the textiles industry in the area. For several years Martinsville was known as the "Sweatshirt Capital of the World." In the early 1990s, changing global economic conditions and new trade treaties made Martinsville textiles and furniture manufacturing economically unsustainable. Many firms closed shop and laid off thousands of workers.[9] Currently, the city is repositioning itself long-term as a center for technology development and manufacturing. Due to the local government's inability to fund certain services, in the near future the city of Martinsville may decide to legally convert into the town of Martinsville.

Recently, MZM, Inc. opened a facility in Martinsville as part of the Cunningham scandal.

The lone high school within the Martinsville City School District is Martinsville High School which averages about 900 students. Its mascot is the bulldog, and the school colors are red and white. The school's varsity boys' basketball team competes in Group AA of the Virginia High School League and won its most recent state championship in March 2006. This victory makes Martinsville High the only high school in the Commonwealth to win 13 state titles. The high school has the second highest teen pregnancy rate in the state, along with the highest S.T.D. rate. This caused the high school to make contraceptives available in school. The Martinsville City Public Schools system has 1 high school, 1 middle school, 2 elementary schools, and 1 preschool.

Additionally, there is a private P.S.-12 school near Martinsville in Henry County, Carlisle School. The school serves approximately 600 students, about 130 of them high school students.

Martinsville is also home to the Virginia Museum of Natural History, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and founded by Martinsville native Dr. Noel Boaz, and Piedmont Arts Association, an affiliate of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Staff of Draper's Barber Shop, Franklin Street, Martinsville, 1920. White bowls on floor are spittoons

Memorial Hospital of Martinsville serves the greater Martinsville and Henry County area. The earliest local hospital was the 50-bed Shackelford Hospital,[10] founded by Dr. Jesse Martin Shackelford,[11] who was later joined by surgeon son Dr. John Armstrong Shackelford, an early graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.[12] Founder of the Hospital Association of Virginia, Dr. Jesse Shackelford was an early advocate of comprehensive care for state citizens. Shackelford Hospital was sold in 1946, and Martinsville General Hospital subsequently opened with Dr. John Shackelford as its first chief surgeon.[13] In 1970 Memorial Hospital of Martinsville opened its doors, replacing Martinsville General.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.0 square miles (28.5 km²), of which, 11.0 square miles (28.4 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.45%) is water. The north side of the city has the highest average elevation. The east side elevation slopes gradually down to the Smith River on the south side. The west side is quite hilly, full of ups and downs.


Oak Hall, home of Col. Pannill Rucker, early Martinsville tobacco manufacturer. Oak Hall burned 19 February 1917

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 15,416 people, 6,498 households, and 4,022 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,407.1 people per square mile (543.1/km²). There were 7,249 housing units at an average density of 661.7 per square mile (255.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 55.38% White, 42.55% African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.47% Asian, 0.69% from other races, and 0.81% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2.32% of the population.

There were 6,498 households out of which 26.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.0% were married couples living together, 19.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.89.

The age distribution was 22.6% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 23.2% from 45 to 64, and 20.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 82.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,441, and the median income for a family was $35,321. Males had a median income of $28,530 versus $21,367 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,251. About 14.0% of families and 19.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.6% of those under age 18 and 16.9% of those age 65 or over. As of August 2010, the city's unemployment rate stood at 20 percent.[14]

Pannill Knitting Company, early Martinsville textile concern founded in 1926



Martinsville is home to the Martinsville Mustangs of the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The Mustangs play at Hooker Field in Martinsville. The Mustangs began play for the league's 2005 season. Martinsville High School's boys' basketball team has won more state titles (13) than any other boys program in Virginia, regardless of size or classification. Martinsville is also home to Martinsville Speedway. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hosts two races there every year.

Notable residents[]

Class of 1912, Martinsville High School

File:Fayette Street Martinsville Virginia state historic marker.JPG

State historic marker for Fayette Street, long the center of Martinsville's African-American community

Shackelford Hospital, founded by Dr. Jesse Martin Shackelford, predecessor of Martinsville Memorial Hospital

  • Rabih Abdullah - National Football League player
  • Reverend Alfred W. Anson - rector, Christ Episcopal Church, 1894-1920[15]
  • Buddy Arrington - NASCAR driver
  • Baton Bob - Costumed street performer
  • John Robert Brown (Virginia politician) - US House of Representatives
  • Johnny Bryant - Drummer for Ray Charles band
  • Thomas G. Burch - American farmer, tobacco manufacturer, and politician (US House of Representatives and US Senate)
  • Greg Gaines - National Football League player
  • Carl Hairston - National Football League player
  • Patrick Henry - American patriot (resided at Leatherwood Plantation, Henry County, outside current city limits)
  • Odell Hodge - collegiate basketball player for Old Dominion University (1993–97)
  • Magdalen Hsu-Li - Bisexual American singer-songwriter, painter, speaker, poet, and activist
  • Randy Hundley - Major League Baseball player
  • Todd Hundley - Major League Baseball player
  • J. C. Martin - Major League Baseball player
  • General Joseph Martin - American Revolutionary War general, explorer, legislator, Indian agent
  • Barry Michaels - American radio personality
  • Ed Reynolds- National Football League- New England Patriots
  • Shawn Moore - National Football League and Canadian Football League player
  • Stephen Mark Rainey - Author of novels, short stories, and various works of nonfiction
  • Nancy Redd - Miss Virginia 2003, Top 10 in Miss America 2004
  • Jessamine Shumate - artist, painter
  • Sonny Wade - Canadian Football League player
  • Stafford G. Whittle - Judge, Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
  • Kennon C. Whittle - Judge, Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
  • Lou Whitaker - Major League Baseball player
  • Red Top Young - Blues, rhythm and blues, country, rock & roll, and jazz musician
  • Delvin Joyce - National Football League- NY Giants New York Giants Football Player
  • Clinton Gregory Country Singer and Fiddle Player
  • Thomas Davis - Banker and Civic leader in Martinsville and Ridgeway, Virginia
  • Jesse Martin- Actor (Law & Order)

See also[]


External links[]

Coordinates: 36°41′10″N 79°52′09″W / 36.686143, -79.869171

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Martinsville, Virginia. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.