Why They Give

Luther H. Hodges, Jr. and
Martha Blakeney Hodges, Class of 1918

Mothers are our earliest teachers. They provide our first exposure to love and kindness, to the world and its mysteries and miracles, to our own potential. Martha Blakeney Hodges, Class of 1918 and former First Lady of North Carolina, was such a mother, and her drive to see children succeed extended far beyond her own family.

“My mother was truly the unsung hero of my father’s success,” remembers her son, Luther H. Hodges, Jr, recipient of the Charles Duncan McIver Medal in 2018. “She was the source of grace and dignity that characterized his administration.”

Martha Blakeney married Luther H. Hodges, a textile executive for Marshall Field, in 1922, four years after she graduated from the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNC Greensboro) with a bachelor’s degree in science. She taught at Leaksville-Spray High School and Greensboro High School, acting at various times as teacher, department head, and principal. During the Great Depression, she even facilitated the education of the children of their town’s mill families.

When her husband was elected lieutenant governor, and then governor, in the 1950s, Martha turned her leadership skills toward advancing education in North Carolina. In addition to spearheading the renovation and maintenance of the Governor’s Mansion, she advocated for literacy and accessible education – including helping with the rehabilitation and education of incarcerated or previously incarcerated mansion workers.

It was during this time Martha became part of her alma mater’s ongoing mission of excellence, opportunity, and impact. To support the library she loved so much, Martha became the inaugural chairperson of the Friends of the Library, a dedicated group of alumni, friends, faculty, and community members who support and advocate for University Libraries.

In 2003, Luther H. Hodges, Jr. and his sister, the late Betsy Hodges Bernard, established the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Endowment in their mother’s memory. In addition to naming the archives and special collections after her, the endowment allows the library to expand its impressive collections of thousands of rare books, manuscripts, and materials. It also funds special projects, including gathering oral histories and digitizing books and documents for public access.

“Our tribute to her at UNCG,” said Hodges at the time, “and particularly the library she loved so much, is only appropriate and indeed somewhat overdue.”

The siblings also donated materials related to their mother to the archives. In 2005, Hodges funded the renovation of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections Reading Room, turning it into a quiet, elegant space for study and reflection.

With thousands of students, faculty, scholars, and community members visiting University Libraries each year and accessing digital collections each day, the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives is an integral part of our University. And thanks to the loving admiration of her children, Martha Blakeney Hodges and her desire to see children educated remain a permanent presence on campus.

Story by Michelle Danner-Groves, Donor Relations


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P. Kevin Williamson

Associate Vice Chancellor