Published On: Fri, Feb 5th, 2010
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Former Choctaw Chief passes away

Phillip Martin

ONE FEATHER STAFF REPORT

CHOCTAW, Miss.

 – Visionary Choctaw leader Phillip Martin passed away at the age of 83 on Thursday, Feb. 4.  The former Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians suffered a severe stroke on Monday, Feb. 1.   

Martin had many dealings with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians over the years and was a founding member of the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. (USET).

Principal Chief Michell Hicks said on Thursday, “Chief Phillip Martin was an exceptional leader who was dedicated to the Choctaw People and to the betterment of Native people throughout the country. His leadership and vision brought his tribe to a position of prominence and prestige from very humble circumstances. Chief Martin has always been a friend to the Cherokee and a personal friend to many of our leaders and we join the Choctaw people in honoring his passing. To his family we offer our prayers and condolences.”

Miko Beasley Denson, current Choctaw Chief related, “I, along with every member of our Tribe, am saddened by the passing of Phillip Martin.  He was a great man and a visionary leader.  I had the privilege of working with Chief for many decades when I was on Tribal Council and leading various Tribal enterprises.  He transformed the economy of our Tribe and with it the fate of our people.  He modernized our government.” 

According to information from the Choctaw Tribe, Martin served as Chief for 28 years and in Tribal government for 45 years.  He is credited as building the Tribe’s first casino which eventually grew into the Pearl River Resort the Tribe owns and operates today. 

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) commented on Martin’s passing, “Chief Martin was a leader who inspired his people and strengthened his community and state.  During his years of public service, he helped bring his community out of poverty and troubled times and created hope and opportunity for Mississippi Choctaws.  Chief Martin will be missed by many, but his legacy of self-determination will continue to flourish in future generations of Choctaws.”

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) commented, “I am saddened by the loss of Phillip Martin, whose service to and leadership of the Choctaw tribe resulted in the accomplishment of many good things.  It was my privilege to work with Chief Martin as he brought forth new ideas to improve life for the Choctaw people and to expand their cultural, economic and educational opportunities.  In the end, he helped not only the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, but all of Mississippi.”

According to information from the Choctaw Tribe, Martin is survived by his wife Bonnie, daughters Deborah Lewis and Patricia Gibson, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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