Editor’s Note: For my recent MTSU Feature Writing class Professor Leon Alligood asked us to write a feature story about someone. I thought of who I could write a feature on and I chose Marty Luffman. Marty Luffman, may in fact, be the ‘most interesting man in Rutherford County.’
Case in point, just yesterday while at Pastor Brenda Bryant’s Christmas luncheon I asked Marty, “Where did you find that Jacket?”
The jacket reminded me of Buffalo Bill. Marty responded, “Well, I was in Texas and some guys were playing poker and a man asked if anyone would loan him $200? I told him I would loan him the money if he handed over his jacket and his matching wallet. The man thought he hand a good hand, but apparently he didn’t because he lost the poker game and I won his jacket and wallet.”
In another interesting moment was when I had invited Governor Bill Lee stop by the Smyrna TCAT school on Sgt. Asbury Hawn Way and Ken Pinkerton Drive.
As Governor Bill Lee arrived he said, “Hey Marty, how are you?”Marty was surprised that the governor knew his name.
Marty: Historian, Business Legend and a ‘Straight Shooter’
Over the many years of the life of Marty Luffman he has played many roles. From a 45-year State Farm agent, he once worked for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, got fired in 1973 by disgraced Governor Ray Blanton (Marty claims it was because he was a Republican), he worked at the Grand Ole Opry, a lecturer, Smyrna and Rutherford County historian, a National Champion in the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association and a member of the Single-Action Shooters’ Society, Lipscomb University graduate, a cancer survivor as well as a Harley-Davidson crash survivor.
His life experience has molded him into a ‘straight-shooter.’
He decided to construct his own building in 1984. His commercial office center was one of the first businesses to locate on Nissan Drive. At that time in Smyrna the road was known as J.S. Young. The road ran from Murfreesboro Road to Jefferson Pike and had a few windy curves along the route which resulted in many car accidents.
Other than Gilsville Shopping Center there wasn’t much out there. Nissan (Datsun) announced construction of their Datsun truck automotive assembly plant in 1980.
Marty even helped to start the first Smyrna Christmas Parade (Folks—I can’t make this stuff up).
Speaking of being a straight shooter when I first met Marty Luffman it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I had stopped by Marty Luffman State Farm Insurance Agency. His office is located on Nissan Drive just up from our first home which is now our business, the Vanity Zone Salon. I was a young 17-year-old and in need of a quote on my car insurance. When I arrived his assistant asked me to have a seat and Marty would be in the office in just a few minutes. Shortly after, Marty arrived.
He asked, “What is he doing here?” His assistant responded, “He’s needing a quote for car insurance.” Marty responded, “I’m not going to insure him!”
Needless to say, I left his office and was mad about that incident for many years.
Several years later he stopped by our former car business and asked if I would help him sell his dually truck. I sold the truck and made about a $400 profit-enough to pay the utilities for the month.
For a moment I had thought of running him out of my office (possibly using the phrase “don’t let the door hit you …”) just like he did me years earlier. Needless to say, I was still a little bitter about the incident when I was 17. I often think, well, what would Jesus do? l simply, ‘let it go’ and forgave and move on.
In a strange twist of irony, we quickly became friends.
There’s no doubt Marty can be very direct and often times with no filter-thus a ‘straight shooter.’ Marty was much like my late WW11 father. My Dad could cuss and make poetry out of it. As a child growing up I would be amazed at the creative cussing expressions he would often use. I was once told by a Smyrna elected official that my dad was ‘the meanest man in Smyrna.’ My late father flew roughly 24 bombing missions on a B-17, seeing your comrades shot down, having four or five marriages — I guess can make a man somewhat bitter.
A few years ago I invited Marty to attend Parkway Baptist Church with me. Marty has attended faithfully — almost every Sunday. Unfortunately, COVID has set church attendance back for many.
Needless to say Marty is often a bull in a China shop. One morning service Marty whispered to me, “Hey, if I die will you preach my funeral?” I responded like any good Christian would and said, “Do I have to make up a bunch of good stuff about you while I’m doing it.” He calmly says, “Yea, just do whatever you need to do.”
Barry French, a neighbor and friend of Marty says, “Marty quite likely is the greatest, most interesting and most entertaining storyteller in the county. And most generous, buying clothing, gifts and food for needy children. A guy tough as nails with the kindest heart in this entire region.”
A few months ago while at our Smyrna Rotary Club meeting I shared the story of Marty running me out of his office and not willing to insure my red 68 Camaro. I loved the old car that I worked each week at $3.65 a hour at Taco Bell to pay for.
The car came factory equipped with red deluxe interior, tick-toc tach, console, factory AC, black vinyl top and I had installed a 4-speed transmission along with a 12 bolt pos rear end.
My friends and I did our share of drag racing in the areas of Smyrna, along Sam Ridley Parkway, Threet Street at the Smyrna Airport and Lee Victory Parkway. After telling Paul Latture, the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Director about the incident Paul politely responded, “Well Mike can you blame him? I bet you wouldn’t insure yourself looking back.”
During my 53 years in Smyrna and roughly 20 years serving in political life and often seeing much hypocrisy, I’ve learned to appreciate straight shooters — even if that shot hurts.
Sadly, the past few months I’ve attended many funerals and I’ve learned that life is way to short to harbor any ill will toward anyone. Forgiveness is a powerful word and tool that we should all learn and apply in our lives.
“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15
William Shakespeare once said,
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.”
Marty Luffman your part has been well played, keep ‘shooting straight.’