Black Veteran shares story of unique, groundbreaking military career

Left, Karen Davis Pritchett, Martha Bellamy and Trudy Beeler, Empath Health Veterans Community Partnership Specialist

By Karen Davis-Pritchett M.Ed., Empath Health Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

A fellow soldier salutes Martha Bellamy.

CLEARWATER — In the early 1950s, Martha Bellamy became the first African-American woman from Lafayette, Ga., to join the U.S. Army. Bellamy said she might still be serving if she hadn’t chosen to get married and start a family six years later.

The 94-year-old St. Petersburg resident shared the story of her military service during a special event entitled Breaking Barriers: Forging Paths on July 18 at Veterans Funeral Care military museum in Clearwater. Many of Bellamy’s family and friends attended the event, and was organized by Veterans Funeral Care and the Empath Honors program.

Bellamy told her story to Empath Honors veteran volunteer Bob Estes as part of the Veterans History Project. The Veterans History Project collects first-hand accounts of combat veterans’ military experiences for future generations.

Martha Bellamy was interviewed by Empath Health Veteran Serving Veteran Volunteer Bob Estes for the Veterans History Project.

Specially trained volunteers and staff conduct video or audio interviews of veterans. The recordings are then submitted and archived in the Library of Congress. Participants receive a copy of their interview, a certificate of participation and a record of where their stories are archived.

Bellamy’s career was unique and noteworthy beyond the breaking of her town’s color barrier. Inspired by watching women soldiers march outside Fort Oglethorpe during World War II, Bellamy joined the army at age 22. After basic training, she was assigned to Fort Lee, recently renamed Fort Gregg-Adams, in Virginia to train at a newly opened baking school.

Bellamy was a quartermaster, cook, and baker. She became well known during a later assignment at Fort Benning, now Fort Moore, in Georgia for her famous bread pudding, made from the heels of bread loaves that were usually discarded. She said people would come from all over the base to eat it.

Born on a plantation in Georgia, Henry Clay Richardson lived through slavery as a young.

She also earned the nickname Spitfire for her skills on the basketball court at Fort Benning.

After serving six years, six months and 16 days, Sgt. Bellamy ended her military career to get married. She and Master Sgt. Abram Bellamy adopted a son, Eric Bellamy.

Martha Bellamy was the first Black woman to join the army from her hometown.

She said her beloved grandfather, Henry Clay Richardson, was her role model. He told her to be courteous, learn from others, be part of the military and take what she learned and make it count. Bellamy became a dressmaker and tailor, along with baking in her spare time. Later, she bought and sold condominiums.

After Bellamy shared her story, she was presented with a 48-star American flag during a recognition ceremony. Several speakers, including Empath Health Veterans Community Partnership Specialist Trudy Beeler, thanked Bellamy for her service.

Empath Health understands the value and importance of sharing the stories of Black men and women veterans. The Veterans History Project is just one part of Empath Honors services available to veterans in Pinellas County. Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health, is a Level Five Partner of the We Honor Veterans program, an initiative of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).

To learn more about Empath Honors, visit

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