A Campaign to Give Re‐Birth to Virginia’s “Friendly City of Progress” Via a Focus on Health, Education, and Community
A Campaign to Give Re‐Birth to Virginia’s “Friendly City of Progress” Via a Focus on Health, Education, and Community Martinsville is an idyllic city of 14,000 located within Henry County and situated in the high Virginia Piedmont, enjoying a benign climate between the winter snows blowing off the Blue Ridge Mountains and the summer hurricanes blowing in from the Atlantic. Planters flocked here in the mid‐1700’s for the rich soil after treaties negotiated by General Joseph Martin of the Virginia Militia made the area safe from Indian attack. Colonel William Byrd surveyed the entire length of Virginia’s southern border and pronounced this area the closest to “Eden” that he had ever encountered. Virginia valued the newly settled area so highly that it sent George Washington to establish three forts to defend it during the French and Indian War. In 1776 Henry County became the first county in the United States named for a native‐born American, Virginia’s first governor, Patrick Henry, who had moved here. Its county seat was named Martinsville after Henry’s neighbor, Gen. Joseph Martin. The region lived up to expectations, producing so much tobacco, the first cash crop of America, that two of America’s tobacco giants, R.J. Reynolds and American Tobacco, trace their agricultural origins to this nuclear area. The natural bounty of the land allowed Martinsville and Henry County to recover rapidly from the devastation of the Civil War and by the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth Martinsville was a boom town with 14 plug tobacco factories and stately homes. When corporate takeovers wiped out the small tobacco factories Martinsville’s entrepreneurs re‐invested in textile and furniture industries capitalizing on the region’s cheap labor to make Martinsville and Henry County the ”sweatshirt capital of the world” and the home of the world’s largest manufacturers of wood furniture. Martinsville was named an “All‐America City” at mid‐ century and touted itself as the “Friendly City of Progress.” Changing global trade patterns and cheap international labor signaled the decline of the dominant industries by the turn of the twentieth century into the twenty‐first, and the area awaits its next transformation. Martinsville now sits atop the fastest internet highway in the nation with first‐class public schools, an award‐winning community college with the largest endowment in the state, a higher education center offering university undergraduate and graduate degrees, the state’s research and collection natural science museum, and the promise of southern Virginia’s first M.D‐ granting medical school. With planning, these strengths can be brought together to make Martinsville a center for Education and Health, two of the nation’s most rapidly growing industries. The Renaissance Martinsville 2016 campaign is centered around its capstone project, the College of Henricopolis School of Medicine, which will serve to bring together many of the educational pipeline and health‐related benefits essential for economic re‐birth and sustainability in the region. The campaign has twelve committees, each with a chairperson, community members, goals, and medical school logistic support. Martinsville native J. Smith Chaney will chair the campaign. At its conclusion the campaign will have advanced the institutionalization of the medical school and ensured its transformative role in the re‐birth of Martinsville and Henry County, leading the area into a bright future in the Information Age.