Despite his now-positive attitude, Wilbur Martin’s mindset used to be more bleak.
His life changed abruptly in 1997 when he crashed his vehicle on his way home from work. Having a spinal injury and forced to use a wheelchair for mobility, Martin began to view the world in a new light. He said the crash reminded him that no dilemma is all that important, so there is no sense in getting overly upset.
“Don’t let things get to you. When it comes down to it, ain’t nobody getting out of this thing alive,” Martin said. “I was just determined that I had goals I wanted to reach, and if I let a disability get in the way of achieving those goals, I was selling myself short.”
Martin has been teaching at The University of Southern Mississippi since 2008. He first taught an introduction to film class and is currently teaching radio production and media law and ethics.
He spends his days teaching students while surrounded by radio equipment at WUSM FM-88.5, engulfed in a passion for radio, a positive lifestyle and teaching. To Martin, music is a way of expression, and he believes in its potential to spread happiness – including his own.
Despite obstacles in his path, Martin contributes to The University of Southern Mississippi and serves as a role-model to students with his “just be cool” perspective.
“Be cool,” Martin said. “Don’t let life get in the way of having a good time and having fun. Consider the unknown years that have transpired in the past since before you or anyone was born, and then consider the millions of billions of years after we die. When you put that in perspective of the 70 years we’re alive, if we’re lucky, the idea that you’re going to use part of your life to make someone else’s life [miserable] is just stupid.”
Martin, a 49-year-old man from Waynesboro, is the radio production general manager for WUSM, a 24-hour, non- commercial radio station, at Southern Miss. He has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and a doctorate of jurisprudence, and he plans to complete a doctorate in mass communication at USM this fall.
Martin has influenced student’s outlooks on life with his uplifting demeanor.
Carrie Butler, 21, is a former student of Martin. She said Martin encouraged her to go out of her way to provide a positive moment in a person’s day.
“Today’s world can turn people cold, but Dr. Martin seems to have beaten the odds,” Butler said. “He was always so positive in class. He gave me the motivation to look at the glass half full for once. Why should I care what others think? I know who I am.”
Butler has not been the only student on USM’s campus impacted by Martin’s determination. James Bramlett, 22, adopted his former professor’s motto to “just be cool.”
“I used to look at life from a pessimist’s perspective, but seeing Dr. Martin be incredibly motivated, in turn, inspired me to adopt the same philosophy,” Bramlett said. “He’s exactly right. None of my struggles are too big to overcome, and I need to positively impact other’s lives. Hopefully it’ll make their day.”
Martin hadn’t always planned to seek a doctorate in mass communication. Before moving back to Waynesboro to finish his Ph.D. in mass communication, Martin practiced law for four years in Columbus, Ohio. He said it was a boring point in his life.
“It was absolutely miserable,” Martin said. “I hated it. Not only that, but the people were kind of not cool. It was not much fun, so I quit that.”
Martin currently lives in an inherited house in Waynesboro while he works on his dissertation. He enjoys growing tomatoes in his container garden, researching and writing.
After his day is full of promise and inspiration, Martin ends his day where it began: at WUSM radio station playing music he hopes will have an impact on someone’s life. Sitting in front of a desk piled high with electronics, Martin grins at his computer screen knowing he’s living a life of envy.
“We should make this life one worth living,” Martin said. “Just be cool.”