There can only be one first and Martha Faris was first not just once but twice in her lifetime of trailblazing that ended Monday with her death at age 92. Faris was the first female Rock Hill Police Department officer, and she is believed to be among the first women to serve in the United States Marine Corps.
Faris will be honored at her funeral Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Neely’s Creek ARP Church by honor guards from the police department, American Legion, and Marine Corps.
Master Sergeant Faris enlisted Dec. 7, 1943 — two years to the day after Pearl Harbor — and served for six years. Robert “Doc” Sweet of Rock Hill, a leader with both the American Legion and Olde English Leathernecks Marine Corps group, called Fairs, “a great, great lady and great, great American.”
Martha Cunnup Reid Faris joined the Rock Hill Police Department on March 8, 1954, according to city council minutes, becoming the first woman to ever wear the blue of the department, said Capt. Mark Bollinger, spokesman for the department.
Yet that came after she was in the service. During World War II, Faris joined the Marines to honor her uncle and went through boot camp at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina before being stationed at Cherry Point Air Station. Female soldiers did not serve overseas in those days but Faris rose to the rank of master sergeant.
“They didn’t have barracks for women,” she told The Herald in 2012 “They had to put us in the men’s barracks.”
Faris, a legendary character, was the yearly “date” on Veterans Day in November the last few years of none other than U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, the South Carolina congressman from Lancaster County who became enamored with Faris’s patriotism and service to country. Mulvaney earlier in February used the phrase, “A wonderful lady,” to describe Faris.
On Veterans Day in 2012, Faris said while attending the Marine Corps ball in a gow, that all the other Marines - men - were wearing their uniforms. Faris was miffed and let a General have it with both barrels.
Mulvaney overhead this classic exchange: “I still have my uniform,” Faris told a general, “and it still fits. You should have told me to wear it.”
Once a Marine, always a Marine, Mulvaney said then, and it fit for Faris who proudly was a Marine, and a police officer paving the way for generations of women after her.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065