Martha Jean Shelburn was born on October 19, 1932 in Idabel, Oklahoma to Reverend John Henry and Leafie Johnson Shelburn. She grew up in Christian home with her five siblings, Sammie (SJ) Shelburn, Alphonso Shelburn, Joyce Shelburn, Lola Faye Shelburn and Alice Shelburn. Martha started from very humble beginnings. The siblings could often be found in the fields and doing chores. Every child had their individual duties to keep and maintain the household. Leafie Johnson Shelburn instilled the importance of education and Christianity into her children.
Martha attended Richland Elementary School, Slater Middle School and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Idabel, Oklahoma. She is the Past President of the Booker T. Washington (BTW)-Slater-Riverside Organization which includes descendants from the Southeast Region of Oklahoma. Mrs. Martha Jean Shelburn Galbreath Butler is a proud graduate of Texas College, one of the five historical black colleges in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church located in East Texas in the heart of Tyler, Texas. She received a B.S. degree in Education from Texas College, and also made the President’s Honor Roll and received the Helena B. Cobb Scholarship from the local Women’s Missionary Council. Martha received a Master of Education and Reading Specialist Certification from Southeastern State University in Durant, Oklahoma and an Administration Certification from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma. She was a retired Administrator and educator of the Oklahoma City Public School, a member of the Retired Educators Association, Phi Delta Kappa, a US professional organization of educators, and a longtime member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Martha applied for her first teaching job in May 1965 but was unsuccessful. She did substitute teaching for one semester and then was hired as a 5th grade teacher in the second semester at (Shawnee Elementary School) Dunbar. In August of 1966 Martha was hired by Dr. Thomas English at Parker Elementary. Her work at Parker Elementary was a rewarding experience that motivated her to apply for a grant to attend Graduate School at Southeastern in Durant, Oklahoma. Martha worked as an elementary teacher in several schools in OKPCS for over 25 years. She retired in 1995 as the Principal of Star Elementary.
Martha was introduced to Christ at an early age and was christened at Williamson Chapel CME. She attended Sunday School and began her role as an active church member. In 1952, Martha joined St. Mary’s CME Church in Oklahoma City. Martha was an active member of St. Mary’s CME until her death, she loved her church and church family. Martha served in the CME church in various capacities throughout the local, district, regional and connectional levels. In her local church Martha was the Sunday School teacher, Usher President and Secretary, Missionary President, Director of Christian Education, Editor of the church bulletin, Church Announcer and Director of the Culinary Department. On the district level, Martha was the Dean and Assistant to the Dean of Leadership Training School, Director of Christian Education and Missionary President. On the regional level, she served as the Secretary of Annual Conference, Vice President and President of Oklahoma Region Missionary Society and as Instructor at the Leadership Training School. Her dedicated work continued on the Connectional level in the Women’s Missionary Council where she has been the Secretary for the President of Presidents; Facilitator for Presenters and a Presenter at the Ninth Episcopal District Missionary Institutes many times.
Martha married John Wesley Galbreath in 1971. To this union, two children, Kristi and Kerry were added. Martha and John were married for 27 years and resided in Oklahoma City until John’s death in 1998. In 2006, Martha was reacquainted with her high school love James Earl Butler. Martha and Earl spent time together in Compton, California where Martha united with Bethel CME Church, under their Watch Care. In California, they had an awesome life playing dominoes and putting puzzles together. They decided to wed on August 18, 2007. Martha and Earl spent their honeymoon in Las Vegas, NV. In order to keep the marriage fresh, Martha and Earl selected a fancy restaurant to have dinner at each month on the 18th as a celebration of their love. Traveling was one of their pastimes. Martha and Earl visited, Palm Springs, CA., Nashville, TN., Hot Springs, AR., Bryan, TX. and several BTW Slater-Riverside school reunions and family reunions. Martha and Earl continued their love story in Oklahoma City until the Lord called her home.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 KJV. Martha dozed into peaceful slumber of eternal rest on February 24, 2021. She was preceded in death by her son, Kerry Galbreath. She leaves to cherish her memories her husband, James Earl Butler; two sisters, Joyce Picou and Lola Faye Galbreath; daughter, Kristi Jenkins; daughter-in-law, Chevelle Galbreath; four stepdaughters, Anita Haywood, Valerie Butler McDaniel (Gerald), Kennetha and Carla Galbreath; three stepsons, ValRay Galbreath, Malcolm and James (Juereata) Butler; three minor grandsons, Evan Galbreath, Caanan Jenkins, James McDaniel and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren and a wealth of family and friends.
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