Chief Phillip Martin
Phillip Martin (March 13, 1926 - Feb. 4, 2010) was the democratically
elected Tribal Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a
federally recognized American Indian tribe of 10,000 enrolled members
living on reservation land in east central Mississippi. Martin has a 50
year record of service to the Tribal government, including more than 25
years as the Tribe's principal elected official. Martin served seven
consecutive four-year terms as Tribal Chief before retiring in 2007.
Chief Martin is known for the counsel he has provided to non-Indian
community leaders throughout east central Mississippi. His efforts to
develop the reservation had an enormous spin-off effect on the economic
development of the cities and towns in the region. In December 1997,
the Philadelphia-Neshoba County Chamber of Commerce named Chief Martin
Man of the Year.
In September 2008 Chief Martin received the Eugene Crawford Memorial
Peace Pipe Award given by the Americans for Indian Opportunity for
lifetime achievement, particularly his dedication and contributions to
Native America and ensuring future opportunity for Indigenous peoples.
Nationally, Martin has served as president of the National Tribal
Chairmen's Association, and the first president of United South and
Eastern Tribes, Inc. (USET), an association of the 26 federally
recognized tribes in the eastern portion of the United States . He was
the first president of the Board of Regents of Haskell Indian Junior
College , between 1970 and 1976 (now Haskell Indian Nations University).
In that period, Martin worked with other tribal leaders to acquire and
maintain accreditation for Haskell, and to improve campus facilities,
including construction of dormitories, a cafeteria, resource center, and
field house. In 1992, Martin founded the United South and Eastern
Tribes Gaming Association.
Chief Martin provided the leadership to create thousands of jobs on the
reservation in tribally-owned factories and resort properties. The list
of companies he partnered with includes Ford, General Motors,
Westinghouse, Navistar, American Greetings and Boyd Gaming.
Chief Martin’s greatest legacy may be the tribal scholarship program
established in 1995 with revenues from tribal businesses which allows
any tribal member to attend any college or university of their choice.
Currently, over 1,200 Choctaw students are enrolled in vocational and
technical training programs and higher academic education programs on
both part-time and full-time schedules, with more than 400 enrolled in
full-time programs leading to a four-year college degree.
Chief Martin and his wife Bonnie were married in 1955. They have two
daughters, Deborah and Patricia, and many grandchildren and