› Blogs › Furman Library News ›A Missionary in Burma
J. Martin England was born in the mill town of Seneca, South Carolina in 1901. He received degrees from Furman University in 1924, and from Crozer Theological Seminary, Pennsylvania. England received an Honorary Doctorate in Divinity from Furman University in 1986.
From 1933 until 1939 and again from 1945 to 1950, England and his wife served as Northern Baptist missionaries in Burma. After the Japanese Army overran Burma the England’s returned to the United States and settled in Louisville, Kentucky. A mutual acquaintance, Walter Nathan Johnson, introduced England to Clarence Jordan (1912-1969), a farmer, Greek scholar, and Southern Baptist minister, and they realized they shared a dream of creating an intentional community in the southern United States based on modern agricultural economy, a commitment to biblical ethics, and a desire for racial reconciliation for the South. England and Jordon, along with their wives, moved to Americus, Georgia, bought some land, and started Koinonia Farm in 1942. After the Japanese left Burma, the England’s returned to the mission field in 1945.
After returning to the United States in 1950, England became involved in civil rights work and in peace activism from the 1950s to the 1980s. As a staff member of the American Baptist Church’s Minister and Missionaries Benefit Board, England arranged to provide Martin Luther King with a retirement and death benefit policy just months before King was assassinated.
England retired in 1972 and passed away January 2, 1989 in Somerset, N.J.
Furman University’s Special Collections and Archives houses The J. Martin England Papers. This collection contains correspondence, handwritten and typed notes, essays, and several articles written by England. The handwritten notes are from the time that England and his family lived in Burma and notes England made after he returned to the United States that reflected on his Burman experiences. The notes focus particularly on his appraisal of the differences and similarities between life in Burma and life in the United States, especially between life among the Kachin peoples, with whom England and his wife, Mabel Orr England, and their children lived and worked. A letter Martin wrote Johnson was published in the newsletter, The Next Step in the Churches, and led directly to the creation of Koinonia Farm.