Martin Boyd Coyner Jr.

Published 5:35 pm Thursday, July 10, 2014

JULY 10 — Martin Boyd Coyner Jr., went to be with the Lord on Saturday, July 5, 2014. Born in Lynchburg, Va. on October 22, 1928, Dr. Coyner grew up in Farmville, the only child of a family of educators.

He was graduated magna cum laude from the University of Virginia, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Raven Society and Sigma Chi fraternity. He received his Master’s and Ph.D. in history from UVA and married Betsie Gilmer in August 1950. After teaching at Southwestern College (Rhodes) in Memphis, TN and Hampden-Sydney College, he was awarded a prestigious yearlong research fellowship at the University of North Carolina. He then joined the faculty and became a tenured professor at the College of William and Mary, where his classes on the Old South were perennially filled to capacity.

Dr. Coyner loved his students and his students loved him. Throughout his career, he continued to research and presented numerous papers to the Southern Historical Society. Besides having a lifelong interest in his German Lutheran heritage, he was a gardener, a pianist and an avid reader of periodicals. His knowledge of U.S. and world history was encyclopedic and he had boundless and eclectic intellectual curiosity. Above all, he treasured his family and took an active interest in his children and grandchildren until the end.

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He is survived by his wife of almost 64 years, Betsie Gilmer Coyner; his daughters, Meredith (Andy) Klemm and Ruth (Lewis) Bell; a son, Thomas Walker Coyner; his grandchildren, Jack (Goodwyn) Bell, Anna (Ian) Read, Megan (Zac) Becker, Dabney Bell, Peter (Mary) Klemm and Winston Bell; and two great-granddaughters. He was predeceased by his parents, Martin Boyd Coyner Sr. and Ruth Harding Coyner; and a son, Martin Boyd Coyner III.

Funeral services will be held at Williamsburg Community Chapel on John Tyler Highway on Saturday, July 12, at noon.

The family suggests donations be made to either World Vision ( or Church Hill Academy and Tutoring. (