Martinsville's uptown district.
A City Without Limits
|County||None ( Independent city)|
|Named for||Joseph Martin|
|• Mayor||Kathy Lawson |
|• Vice Mayor||Chad Martin|
|• Council||Martinsville City Council|
|• Total||11.01 sq mi (28.51 km2)|
|• Land||10.96 sq mi (28.37 km2)|
|• Water||0.05 sq mi (0.14 km2)|
|Elevation||1,017 ft (310 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||1,300/sq mi (480/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 ( Eastern (EST))|
|• Summer ( DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
|FIPS code||51-49784 |
|GNIS feature ID||1498514 |
Martinsville is an independent city near the southern border of the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 13,821.  It is the county seat of Henry County,  although the two are separate jurisdictions. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Martinsville with Henry County for statistical purposes.
The paper clip-shaped Martinsville Speedway, the shortest track in the NASCAR Cup Series at 0.526 miles (847 m) and one of the first paved "speedways," is located just outside the city near the town of Ridgeway.
Martinsville was founded by American Revolutionary War General, Indian agent and explorer Joseph Martin, born in Albemarle County.  He developed his plantation Scuffle Hill on the banks of the Smith River near the present-day southern city limits. General Martin and revolutionary patriot Patrick Henry, who lived briefly in Henry County and for whom the county is named, were good friends.
The city's chief industry for many early years was the manufacture of plug chewing tobacco. The Henry County area became known as the "plug tobacco capital of the world." In the wake of the collapse of the plantation economy following the American Civil War, the local economy was reeling. Stepping into the breach were several thriving plug firms which sold their merchandise across the nation beginning in the nineteenth century.
Local families were heavily involved in these companies, bestowing their names on them and reaping sizeable profits until the early twentieth century, when the tobacco monopolies created by R.J. Reynolds and James Buchanan Duke bought out most firms. (In most cases, in bold anti-competitive moves, the two tobacco titans simply shut down their acquisitions overnight.  These actions resulted in a U.S. government lawsuit against American Tobacco Company. ) Among the earliest of these firms were D.H. Spencer & Sons and Spencer Bros. Other families soon joined in founding other early firms, including the Gravelys, the Comptons, the Ruckers, the Wittens, the Lesters and the Browns.
The city's main industry for a century was furniture construction, and today Virginia furniture makers still reside in the region.
DuPont in 1941 built a large manufacturing plant for producing textile nylon filament, a vital war material. During the Cold War, the city was identified as a target for strategic bombing by the Soviet Union. This nylon production jump-started the growth of the textiles industry in the area.
Business leaders in the mid-20th century, like Whitney Shumate, worked to improve sub-standard housing in Martinsville. He helped clear out a portion of Martinsville called "Mill Town", which had sub-standard rental housing originally provided for 19th century employees of a now defunct cotton mill. New homes were constructed in the neighborhood, built with sound materials and with all city services for the first time. What had originally been considered a depressed civic area rapidly became a center of progress as middle class blacks finally began to prosper. As an editorial in the local newspaper noted, "One of the projects which won him considerable attention and praise was the instigation of the redevelopment of what was once known as Martinsville Cotton Mill Village. He and associates purchased about 50 houses in North Martinsville, and using private capital rather than federal aid, rebuilt them into comfortably inhabitable homes, making it possible for many persons to purchase homes within their financial range." 
In the early 1990s, changing global economic conditions and new trade treaties made Martinsville textiles and furniture manufacturing economically unsustainable. Many firms closed shop and laid off thousands of workers; the production moved offshore to other countries.  The city is repositioning itself long-term as a center for technology development and manufacturing.
Memorial Hospital of Martinsville (now combined with the hospital in Danville, Virginia to become Sovah Health.) serves the greater Martinsville and Henry County area.  The earliest local hospital was the 50-bed Shackelford Hospital,  founded by Dr. Jesse Martin Shackelford,  who was later joined by surgeon son Dr. John Armstrong Shackelford, an early graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  Founder of the Hospital Association of Virginia, Dr. Jesse Shackelford was an early advocate of comprehensive care for state citizens. Shackelford Hospital was sold in 1946, and Martinsville General Hospital subsequently opened with Dr. John Shackelford as its first chief surgeon.  In 1970 Memorial Hospital of Martinsville opened its doors, replacing Martinsville General.
The Beaver Creek Plantation, John Waddey Carter House, Dry Bridge School, East Church Street-Starling Avenue Historic District, Fayette Street Historic District, Little Post Office, Martinsville Fish Dam, Martinsville Historic District, Martinsville Novelty Corporation Factory, and Scuffle Hill are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 
Liberty Fair Mall opened in 1989.
Martinsville's relationship with Henry County is somewhat complex. Martinsville was fully included in Henry County's jurisdiction until it was declared a city by court order in 1928.  As with all cities in Virginia, Martinsville's incorporation as a city made it independent from Henry County's jurisdiction. Although Martinsville technically remains the county seat of Henry County, nearby Collinsville serves as the de facto county seat, as it is where the county's primary administrative and judicial offices are located. However, the future of this jurisdictional arrangement became unclear when Martinsville's city council unanimously voted in favor of beginning the process of reverting from a city to a town (which would reincorporate it into the county's jurisdiction) on December 10, 2019,  citing economic and demographic concerns.  The time frame for this reversion remains unclear, as the city's petition to revert must first be approved by a three-judge panel  in the state courts, after which begins a complex process of negotiation with the county over the division of responsibilities. 
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.0 square miles (28.5 km2), of which 11.0 square miles (28.5 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km2) (0.5%) is water.  The north side of the city has the highest average elevation. The east side slopes gradually down to the Smith River on the south side. The west side is hilly. Martinsville is located near the southern border of Virginia.
|U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960  1900-1990 
1990-2000  2010-2019 
As of the census  of 2000, there were 15,416 people, 6,498 households, and 4,022 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,407.1 people per square mile (543.1/km²). There were 7,249 housing units at an average density of 661.7 per square mile (255.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 55.38% White, 42.55% African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.47% Asian, 0.69% from other races, and 0.81% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2.32% of the population.
There were 6,498 households out of which 26.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.0% were married couples living together, 19.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.89.
The age distribution was 22.6% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 23.2% from 45 to 64, and 20.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 82.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $27,441, and the median income for a family was $35,321. Males had a median income of $28,530 versus $21,367 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,251. About 14.0% of families and 19.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.6% of those under age 18 and 16.9% of those age 65 or over. As of August 2010, the city's unemployment rate stood at 20 percent. 
The City of Martinsville operates under a council-manager government. The city council has five members who serve four-year terms. Every two years, the council elects a mayor and vice-mayor from among its members. An appointed city manager controls daily operations and manages the city's activities.
The city is served by the Martinsville City Public Schools.  There are five public schools in Martinsville:
- Martinsville High School, opened in 1968 and serves roughly 580 students in grades 9-12. 
- Martinsville Middle School, originally built as a high school in 1939 and serves roughly 430 students in grades 6–8. 
- Albert Harris Elementary School, opened as a high school in 1958 and now serves roughly 490 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.  The school is named after Albert Harris, an African-American minister who was a key advocate for the education of local African-American children. 
- Patrick Henry Elementary School, opened in 1950 and serves roughly 435 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.  The school is named after founding father Patrick Henry. 
- Clearview Early Childhood Center, opened as an elementary school in 1954 and now serves roughly 140 students in preschool as part of the Virginia Preschool Initiative. 
- Piedmont Arts Association: Established in 1961, this non-profit museum is a museum partner of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums 
- Virginia Museum of Natural History: Established in 1984, non-profit museum affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution
Martinsville is home to the Martinsville Mustangs of the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The Mustangs play at Hooker Field in Martinsville. The Mustangs began play for the league's 2005 season.
Martinsville is also home to Martinsville Speedway, which opened in 1947.  The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series hosts two races there every year. The speedway also host the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
- Rabih Abdullah – National Football League player
- John Robert Brown – US House of Representatives
- Thomas G. Burch – American farmer, tobacco manufacturer, and politician ( US House of Representatives and US Senate)
- Greg Gaines – National Football League player
- Clinton Gregory - Country Singer and Fiddle Player
- Carl Hairston – National Football League player 
- George Hairston plantation owner, former sheriff of Henry County, Brigadier General, War of 1812 
- Robert Hairston plantation owner, former sheriff of Henry County, captain of militia, French and Indian War 
- Patrick Henry – American patriot (resided at Leatherwood Plantation, Henry County, outside current city limits) 
- Magdalen Hsu-Li – American singer-songwriter, painter, speaker, poet, and activist
- George Hairston Jamerson, Brigadier general during World War I
- Kristen-Paige Madonia – Novelist and creative writing teacher
- General Joseph Martin – American Revolutionary War general, explorer, legislator, Indian agent
- Delvin Joyce – National Football League player
- Barry Michaels – American radio personality
- Thon Maker - 10th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, NBA player for Milwaukee Bucks 
- Matur Maker - professional basketball player
- Shawn Moore – National Football League and Canadian Football League player
- Jesse Penn – National Football League player
- Stephen Mark Rainey – Author of novels, short stories, and various works of nonfiction
- Jessamine Shumate – artist, painter
- Whitney Shumate - businessman, developer
- General Dennis L. Via - former Commanding General of the United States Army Materiel Command (AMC)
- Sonny Wade – Canadian Football League player
- "Sweet Lou" Whitaker —Major League Baseball player
- Stafford G. Whittle – Judge, Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
- Kennon C. Whittle – Judge, Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
- Red Top Young – Blues, rhythm and blues, country, rock & roll, and jazz musician
- Martinsville Bulletin, Martinsville's daily newspaper serving the city of Martinsville and Henry County, Virginia and is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.
- WDBJ, CBS affiliate based in Roanoke
- WSLS, NBC affiliate based in Roanoke
- WSET, ABC affiliate based in Lynchburg
- WFXR, Fox affiliate based in Roanoke
- WWCW, Fox affiliate based in Lynchburg
- WZBJ, an Independent station, based in Roanoke, licensed in Danville
- WPXR, ION affiliate based in Roanoke
- WHEE 1370, broadcast station based in Martinsville
- WMVA 1450, Talk news radio station based in Martinsville
- WROV-FM 96.3, commercial FM radio station based in Martinsville
- "Kathy Lawson elected as new mayor of Martinsville". www.wsls.com. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
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- The Tobacco Worker, Tobacco Workers International Union, 1907. Books.google.com. Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
- Federal Anti-trust Decisions, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1917. Books.google.com. Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
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- Martinsville Bulletin. March 3, 1966. "City Loses Citizen who Helped Make it a Better Community."
- "Threadbare: The Unravelling of Henry County" Archived September 11, 2012, at Archive.today, The Roanoke Times, 17 August 2002. (August 17, 2002). Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
- Rozen, Laura (January 13, 2006). "'Duke' Of Deception". CBS News. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
- "Sovah Health – Martinsville". www.sovahhealth.com. Sovah Health. February 3, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
- The Doctors Shackelford and the Shackelford Hospital, Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society Archived March 14, 2017, at the Wayback Machine. Mhchistoricalsociety.com (October 8, 2009). Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
- Jesse Martin Shackelford, M.D., Martinsville Henry County Historical Society Archived July 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Mhchistoricalsociety.com (October 6, 2009). Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
- John Armstrong Shackelford, M.D., Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society Archived July 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Mhchistoricalsociety.com (October 6, 2009). Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
- The History of Memorial Hospital Archived August 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Martinsvillehospital.org. Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
- "The Hornbook of Virginia History: Cities of Virginia". Encyclopedia Virginia: Virginia Humanities. Library of Virginia. December 19, 2016. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
- "Martinsville Reversion". Henry County. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
- Dwyer, Shayne (December 11, 2019). "After Nearly 70 Years in the Making, City of Martinsville Begins Process of Reversion to Town Status". WSLS10. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
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- "About". Martinsville High School. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
- "About". Martinsville Middle School. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
- "About". Albert Harris Elementary School. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
- "About". Patrick Henry Elementary School. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
- "About". Clearview Early Childhood Center. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
- "History of Carlisle School". carlisleschool.org. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
- "About NCI". newcollegeinstitute.org. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
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- "Carl Hairston". Pro-Football Reference.Com. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
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- City of Martinsville
- Old Photos
- Movies of Local People: Martinsville, VA, 1938, from the H. Lee Waters Film Collection