Cover photo for Martin Omar Burrell's Obituary
Martin Omar Burrell Profile Photo

Martin Omar Burrell

March 24, 1925 — March 13, 2014

Martin Omar Burrell

Martin O. Burrell, age 88 of Hiawassee, GA passed away on March 13, 2014 at his home following long-term failing health. He was born in Atlanta, GA, on March 24, 1928, the son of the late Henry Grady Burrell, of Hiawasssee, GA and Sarah Ethel Woodring, of Woods Grove.

Mr. Burrell considered himself a native of Towns County. His paternal grandparents were Walter Jerome “Rome” Burrell and Sarah Adeline “Sally” Eller of Hiawassee, GA. His maternal grandparents were Joseph Newton “Newt” Woodring and Nancy Alice Brown of Woods Grove, Towns County. He spent many happy hours in the hills with his grandparents, as a boy, hunting, fishing, and enjoyed helping with the farm chores.

Mr. Burrell is survived by his wife of sixty-seven years, Jennie Tallman Burrell, sons, Alvin Jerome Burrell and Eric Omar Burrell, daughter, Alice Burrell James and three grandchildren: James, Micah and Reba. He is also survived by a cousin in Towns County, Clyde McNabb, cousins, Phenie Sims, Burrell Sims, Elwanda Bagley and Euzella Gibson, of Gainesville, GA, cousin Colonel James Crawford of Hayesville, NC son of Eva and Leonard Crawford, and many other cousins.

A disabled veteran of World War II, Burrell was in the forefront of an unofficial movement to show other double amputees that work, marriage and children were still possible despite the loss of both legs: one above the knee and the other just below the knee.

Raised in the West end of Atlanta in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Burrell graduated in 1943 from Boys High (located where Grady High is now). In short order he entered the United States Army and served during the last year of World War II as a Combat Engineer in France and Germany. It was during a tank attack in Germany in 1945 that he sustained the injuries that resulted in the amputations.

After months of rehabilitation at the military hospital in Atlantic City, NJ, Burrell returned to Georgia with his wife. There, He pursued his boyhood dream of obtaining a college education, first at Young Harris College, then earning his bachelor and masters degrees in mathematics at Emory University.

His first position out of college was as a civilian employee of the military at Warner Robins Air Force Base as an instructor in mathematics and physics. Climbing three flights of stairs each day to reach his classes, the lack of elevators was never an obstacle to Martin Burrell. As he once told a reporter for The News in Warner Robins: “I don’t think that a handicap should be considered as anything but another hurdle to be overcome, certainly not an impossible obstacle.” This same attitude carried Burrell through fifty-five years of putting on his artificial legs, similar to others putting on shoes, and going to work and about his community responsibilities, activities, hobbies and interests.

Before leaving Robins, Burrell had advanced to Operations Research studying stress on metals and propeller failures in aircraft. In 1957, Burrell accepted the position of Associate Scientist at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Marietta, GA. A Nuclear Analyst, the primary focus of his research was working on shielding aircraft and armored vehicles from radiation.

After four years with Lockheed, Burrell was inspired to seek a role in America’s expanding space program. In 1961, he accepted a position with NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. Over a 14- year career, he advanced to Chief for the Radiation Analysis Branch of the Particle and Applied Physics Division of the Space Sciences Laboratory.

Burrell’s work contributed to the American Space Program including the landing of man on the moon in 1969. His research developed radiation measurements to answer questions of environmental shielding for astronauts and equip during extended space exploration. In this capacity, he contributed to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo named space programs. His contributions were also used in the design of the Skylab Orbiting Laboratory, and his radiation effect studies in solar electric propulsion were used in later space exploration.

During his NASA years, Burrell received a Sustained superior Performance Rating and an Outstanding Performance Rating. Additionally, his personal story was published in the pamphlet, “Reward for Courage” issued by the Civil Service Commission in 1970. His story was used to exemplify the many veterans seriously wounded in combat who had overcome handicaps to build successful and fulfilling lives.

Burrell was also honored by Alabama Governor George Wallace’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped in 1973, with a Certificate of Recognition for “outstanding occupational and social achievements which provide example and encouragement for all persons.”

Martin Burrell is cited in Leaders in American Science for 1968-69 and in Who’s Who in the South and the Southeast of 1969-70, 1971-72 and 1973-74

After retiring from NASA in 1975, Burrell and his family moved to Hiawassee, Towns County, GA, the home of his parents and grandparents. Wanting to return to teaching, he took a position at nearby Tri-County Community College (TCCC) in Murphy, NC, where he was a well-liked and respected instructor. Becoming head of the Mathematics Department, he taught everything from basic math to calculus during his years at TCCC.

Once in the mountains, Burrell found time to pursue his hobbies of chess and raising trout, as well as observing mountain flora and fauna. An ardent environmentalist, he supported the Chattooga Conservancy, forest Watch and Friends of the Mountains, Georgia Land Truest and the Georgia Environmental Policy Institute.

In these years Burrell became very active involved in the local community. In 1984 he was elected Treasurer of Towns County. He also served as a county Tax Equalizer and as a member of the Hospital Authority and the Planning Board.

A member of the Union Hill United Methodist Church, Burrell served for several years as church treasurer. In addition, he was an active member of the Humane Society and the Recycling Committee.

Funeral services for Mr. Burrell were held on Sunday, March 16, 2014 at 3:00 PM from the chapel of Banister Funeral Home with Eulogy by Truman Barrett. Music was provided by Wayne Hundley. Interment was in Russell Cemetery. Banister Funeral Home of Hiawassee in charge of arrangements.
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Past Services


Sunday, March 16, 2014

1:00 - 3:00pm

Banister-Cooper Funeral Home

678 N Main St, Hiawassee, GA 30546

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Starts at 3:00pm

Banister-Cooper Funeral Home

678 N Main St, Hiawassee, GA 30546

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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