Former Mayor Frank Martin was remembered as a "bridge builder" and a visionary during a dedication ceremony Wednesday morning for the new pedestrian 14th Street bridge connecting Columbus and Phenix City.
The bridge, just south of the downtown TSYS campus, closed to vehicle traffic in 2000 after the 13th Street bridge opened. After a $6.2 million, two-year construction project, the bridge was dedicated as the "Frank K. Martin Pedestrian Bridge" in a ceremony attended by nearly 300 people. Martin died in August 2012.
"He was one of the first to see what was possible," Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said. "He saw the economic and civic amenities that come from turning our face back to the river. And he he had the strength and tenacity to stay the course in the face of the naysayers."
During Martin's tenure from 1991-94, the lawyer-turned-politician led a rebirth of civic infrastructure and pride.
Using his bulldog-like approach, Martin — widely known as "Butch" — spearheaded the passage of a 1-percent sales tax that led to a new civic center, riverwalk and public safety building — as well as a new attitude that enabled Columbus to successfully compete to host the 1996 Olympic softball competition.
Martin's son and law partner, John Martin, recalled his father's style in getting things accomplished.
"The path of least resistance was something rarely considered by Butch Martin," John said. "We look at this as an honor to all of his supporters and those who participated in the Martin administration. This is what we can achieve if we all work together."
Former Mayor Jim Wetherington was police chief during the Martin administration.
"I knew Butch very well," said Wetherington. "Frank was a bridge builder in so many ways. And if something needed to be done, Frank Martin would not let anything stand in his way. That's the way he was in the courtroom, and that is the way he was as mayor."
Tomlinson called the bridge "one last joint venture" between Martin and his longtime friend Sam Wellborn, a member of the Georgia Department of Transportation board that was instrumental in naming the bridge for Martin.
"This was fabulously appropriate," Wellborn said. "I loved him very much and felt his presence. I loved what was said about him."