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Bela John Martin     

Date of birth:

Airplane pilot

1934-35 spring

Graduation in art, May 1940. Graduation examiner, Marcel Breuer.





Bela Martin heard about Black Mountain College at Louisville Male High School from Robert Wunsch, who had taught there between his leaving Rollins College and his teaching at Black Mountain. Martin and Morton Steinau hitchhiked to Black Mountain to visit Wunsch and decided to enroll. Martin, one of Black Mountain's few athletic students, recalled that he could have gone to other colleges on a football scholarship but chose Black Mountain instead.

Martin attended the college for five-and-a-half years, graduating in weaving with Marilyn Bauer as his graduation examiner. In addition to courses in the general curriculum he took courses with Josef Albers, stage studies with Xanti Schawinsky and drama with Robert Wunsch..

After graduation, on the recommendation of Ms. Stix, the mother of John Stix, he was hired to teach art at John Burroughs School, a private junior-senior high school in St. Louis, where he also coached winning teams in sports. In 1941, to avoid being drafted, he tried to enlist in the navy to be a pilot but was rejected because he needed two years of college and the navy would not accept his Black Mountain certificate. Again Ms. Stix helped him, this time finding a college that would give him two years credit for his Black Mountain work.

During World War II he trained as a pilot. He was sent to Pearl Harbor soon after the bombing and then to the Fiji Islands and Guadalcanal for more training. He later flew fighter escort in Solomon Islands and trained on the S4FL-Hellcat. Just before was to be sent further out in Pacific, he had to good fortune to be returned to the United States where he was a fighter pilot instructor.

After the war Martin did corporate flying for thirty-five years until his retirement in 1976. He lived in California and worked as a flight trainer, did production flight tests, and flew corporate assignments. During the Vietnam War he flew on contract to the military, transporting equipment to Saigon, Danang and Cameron Bay. He later moved to Hartford where he worked for Heublein as chief pilot. After Heublein purchased Kentucky Fried Chicken, he flew the Colonel on many assignments.

Bela Martin is remembered by his fellow students as the rare gifted athlete at Black Mountain. Throughout his life he combined his passion for flying and for golf and tennis. He met his wife Dorothy when playing tennis. After retirement he worked for golf course in Hartford and continues to play.

















Bela Martin in the drawing class of Josef Albers (detail). Photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives, Black Mountain College Papers (8.23)

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