Veteran runs east Nashville grocery for over 50 years

Bill Martin

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – If a smile could speak, Bill Martin’s would have a lot to say.

“I’m pretty old now. How old am I? 45!” joked Martin.

He likes to talk about east Nashville and the people he has met working in a grocery store for nearly 84 years.

Bill Martin
Bill Martin

“We didn’t have no money but we had love for one another,” he told News 2.

PHOTOS: Heroes of Tennessee 

The 95-year-old remembers stocking shelves to help his family at a young age but he did not know it would turn into a lifelong career.

“It’s been a long time and I still love the grocery business,” Martin said.

For decades Martin has been helping put food on the table for people in east Nashville but his service stretches beyond grocery store shelves.

During a 26-year stint in the Army, he traveled to many different countries and fought on several different battlefields in World War II and the Korean War.

“We were fixing to have an attack so I was in my foxhole and I saw the tanks coming so I got down as low as I could but when I did, the tank rolled right over on top of me,” Martin went on to say, “Oh Lordy, that is all for me.”

From Germany to Japan and everywhere in between, he said he always met a friend.

“I went to several countries and they were all just above average for everybody.”

Despite spending nearly a quarter of his life defending our country, one of this true hero’s life saving moments happened right here in the Volunteer State during the Civil Rights Movement. He stopped an angry mob from trying to lynch an African-American sailor in Clinton in 1956.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

“They said, we are going to hang this man and I said when you get the rope – you better get enough for two because I’ll go with him,” he said.

Bill remembers that day like it was yesterday when he took the sailor to Knoxville, Tennessee, to avoid the violence in Clinton. Still, 60 years later, he does not like to brag. Instead, he spends most of his time laughing and walking the grocery store aisles.

“The grocery business has been good to me and I love it.”

If you are in east Nashville and want a history lesson, the retired Chief Warrant Officer may be the perfect person to go to any day.

“I got one good story I know that I’ll tell you sometime if you want to hear it.”

They are stories only he can tell of himself, a true Tennessee hero, on and off the battlefield.