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Wilson Heroes Banquet to Honor Martha Walston

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Martha Walston is a hero to the Wilson community

The Frederick E. Turnage Chapter of the American Red Cross will honor Martha Walston, former Wilson City Councilwoman and volunteer Red Cross nurse among many other distinguished roles she has held in the Wilson community and the state of North Carolina. The banquet kicks off the chapter’s Heroes Campaign held during the month of March, in honor of presidentially declared, National Red Cross Month.

Each year, the Red Cross honors real, local heroes in the community as part of the Heroes Campaign. Heroes for the American Red Cross is a grassroots fundraising and awareness campaign that gives community members the chance to make a big, lasting difference by raising vital funds to help those in need.

“Martha Walston is a hero to the Wilson community and to the entire state of North Carolina for all the work she has done as a city councilwoman, the boards of trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State University and the groundbreaking role of being the first public member of the North Carolina Medical Board,” said Lynwood Roberson, CEO of the Frederick E. Turnage Chapter of the American Red Cross. “It is our privilege to honor Martha as a Red Cross Hero for her lifetime of diligent work making the City of Wilson and the state of North Carolina a better place to live.”

“Martha once said, ‘I was just raised to know that I wasn’t better than anyone else. I wanted to give back.’ That giving and charitable nature is why Martha would never call herself a Hero and this is also why she is our Red Cross Community Hero and it’s our honor and privilege to recognize Martha at our Banquet this year,” said Roberson.

For more information about the Heroes Campaign and to purchase tickets, please call 252-237-2171 or 252-977-1720.

Martha Walston and her work in the community

Walston has a servant’s heart. Her giving back began by becoming a school teacher at Rocky Mount High. During World War II, Walston resigned from her teaching position to work in the office of Export Leaf Tobacco Company in her hometown of Wilson. She is the first woman in Wilson to work in the office of one of the big tobacco companies. This wouldn’t be the only time in her life she broke ground on positions of importance and community impact. During this time she took the extensive training required to be a volunteer nurse for the American Red Cross. She used that training, which was essentially the same training a licensed practical nurse received at that time, and volunteered at Woodard-Herring Hospital and Carolina General Hospital. The volunteer Red Cross nurses filled the void left by nurses that were serving in the armed forces during the war.

The next years of Walston’s life would be spent raising her family. However, even during this period she served her community by serving as president of the Wilson County PTA . She also would hold nearly every position with the Wilson Chamber of Commerce. Her interest in public service moved to politics when she ran for Wilson City Council in the 1970s. This is a period in time when the mayor was selected from the members of the council. Walston was chosen by her fellow council members to serve as mayor, which would have made her the first female mayor of Wilson. Feeling that she could have greater impact as a council woman, she politely declined the position.

Eventually, she would find herself again making an impact in the medical field when she was asked by then Governor Jim Hunt to serve as the first public member of the North Carolina Medical Board. This is a board that had been in existence since before the Civil War and never had a member that wasn’t a doctor. Walston initially was met with great resistance by the members of the board. Their concern being a non-physician serving on the medical oversight board would undermine their entire profession. Walston’s determination, thorough preparedness, and collaborative nature won over the board members and she would eventually serve four terms for a total of 12 years. In 1987, the North Carolina Medical Society honored Walston with the John Huske Anderson Award for her contributions which “had a positive impact on the medical profession and public health.”

On Tuesday, February 25, 2014 Walston will add the Red Cross Community Hero award to her long list or recognitions and accomplishments. To purchase tickets to the Heroes Banquet and help the Red Cross honor Martha Walston, please call the Red Cross office in Wilson at 252-237-2171. Tickets for the event are $75 for one or $125 for two tickets. Sponsorship opportunities are also available to purchase a full table in support of the Red Cross and Martha Walston.