Oak Ridge woman born in 1938 finally receives birth certificate to get Real ID


OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s taken months, but an Oak Ridge woman has finally received her birth certificate. The document was never recorded when she was born over 80 years ago and she needed it to prove her citizenship.

100 years ago, all states across America had birth records, but federal documents show it was not until the 1930s when a standardized version of birth certificates was uniformly adopted. If your parents lived in a rural area of Tennessee and you were not born in a hospital, there may be no record of your birth.

Mary Martin is relieved, she can prove she’s an American citizen. Martin, who’s homebound and a widow, retired from Oak Ridge with a top-secret clearance. Recently, she received a delayed certificate of birth as proof of her U.S. citizenship. Attorney John Agee, a friend of Martin’s son, helped her secure the necessary documentation to acquire a Real ID driver’s license which eventually you will need to fly on a commercial airline or to enter a federal building.

Martin says, “I’m proud. I’m really proud to have it.” It was last October when she visited the state’s driver’s license center in Oak Ridge and was turned away as she tried to secure her Real ID license. “They asked for my birth certificate, well, I didn’t have a birth certificate, never had one.”

To obtain a special designated license, one of the requirements is a birth certificate. However, when she was born in 1938 and delivered by a midwife in rural Tennessee, her birth was never recorded. But for years while working at top-secret facilities in Oak Ridge, no one ever questioned her citizenship.

It took John Agee four months to secure the necessary documents. Through the Freedom of Information Act, he received confirmation from the FBI among other groups that she was a citizen. “It was fairly interesting to me that she could go through these security checks and satisfy the United States government in 1974 to work at a nuclear facility but now she needs a star on her driver’s license to enter a nuclear facility which she doesn’t want to do, so it’s a real turn around of events.”

After receiving the certificate, Martin returned to the driver’s center to get her Real ID but was turned down again. This time, the name on her Social Security card, her married name, Martin, didn’t match up with the name on the birth certificate, Robinson, her maiden name.

“Social Security don’t have what my birth certificate has on it,” Martin explained. “Now that was stupid, excuse me. I just looked at her and said, ‘don’t people get married? They don’t keep Robinson all the time.’ I walked out the door.”

To make things easier for Martin, WATE 6 On Your Side visited the Anderson County Clerk’s Office which also processes Real ID driver’s licenses. Clerk Jeff Cole said he and his staff will personally see to it that once Martin shows them proper documents, she will receive her Real ID.

Throughout the U.S. Real IDs will be mandatory starting May 3, 2023, to enter federal buildings, nuclear power plants or to go through TSA Checkpoints in airports. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the original deadline of October 2021 was extended by the Department of Homeland Security. If all goes well, Martin will have a Real ID far in advance of the new deadline.

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