Martha Burton


Martha Burton
City: Washington
State: DC
Inducted: 2008

Burton fell in love with bowling as a young woman who was invited by friends to bowl with them on lanes in St. Christopher's Church in Chicago. She bowled through a career as a kindergarten teacher, a riveter helping build airplanes during World War II and as a volunteer with the U.S. Signal Corps. She didn't realize bowling had closed its doors to minorities until she was transferred to Washington, D.C., early in the 1940s and her Masonic Temple league's application for ABC/WIBC membership was politely refused in a letter noting that membership was open only to Caucasians. Burton's vow to never set foot on a bowling lane again proved to be a hollow promise. After discovering The National Bowling Association, an organization founded by African-American bowlers, she became a TNBA advocate and a force in encouraging African-Americans to take up bowling for the next five decades. When ABC/WIBC took down their racial barriers, she became the first black woman delegate to the WIBC annual meeting. She was the only black woman among the founders of the Virginia Women's B.A., and she served as a women's and youth association leader for decades. Burton was the first recipient of TNBA's Mary Wilkes Award and she was granted WIBC member emerita status in 1997.