Joe Shirley Jr.

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Joe Shirley Jr.
Joe Shirley.jpg
6th President of the Navajo Nation
In office
January 14, 2003[1] – January 11, 2011
Vice President Ben Shelly (2007-2011)
Frank Dayish Jr. (2003-2007)
Preceded by Kelsey A. Begaye
Succeeded by Ben Shelly
Personal details
Born (1947-12-04) December 4, 1947 (age 69)
Chinle, Arizona
Nationality  Navajo Nation and
Spouse(s) Vikki Shirley
Residence Chinle, Arizona
Occupation Apache County Supervisor

Joe Shirley Jr. (born December 4, 1947) is an American Navajo politician who was elected President of the Navajo Nation in November 2002 and served until January 2011. He is from Chinle, Arizona, and is Tódích'íi'nii, born for Tábaahá.

Education and early life[edit]

Shirley was born in Chinle, AZ on the Navajo Nation.[2] He is married to Vikki Shirley and the couple have three sons and three daughters.[3] Joe Shirley has B.S. in Business from Abilene Christian University ('73) and a Masters in Social Work from Arizona State University ('78). In 2005, Northern Arizona University bestowed upon Shirley an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for his continued service to the community.[4]

Navajo Nation Council 1986 – 1999[edit]

Shirley served on the Navajo Nation Council from 1986 to 1999. While on the Council, he was the Chairman of the Labor and Manpower Committee Advisory Committee from 1987 to 1991, Chairman of the Tax Commission from 1991 to 1995, Chairman of the Ethics and Rules Committee from 1995 to 1998 and a member of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee.[5]

After completing his second term as Navajo President, he was re-elected as the Apache County Supervisor for a third term.

Since December 2001, after the death of their daughter to a drunk driver, the Shirley family has been heavily involved with MADD.[6]

Navajo Nation President 2003–2011[edit]

In 2002, Joe Shirley and Frank Dayish (Shirley's political running mate) entered the race for the Presidency of the Navajo Nation and defeated incumbent President Kelsey Begaye[7] with 31,406 votes to 23,964 cast for Begaye.[5] Joe was inaugurated as the President of the Navajo Nation on January 14, 2003 in Window Rock, AZ.[1]

In 2006, Shirley selected Thoreau, New Mexico, Council delegate Ben Shelly as his vice presidential running mate during his second bid for Navajo Executive Office. On election day, Shirley became the first Navajo to be re-elected to the office of Navajo President since the office was reformed from a Chairmanship to Presidency.[8] Former New Mexico State Representative Lynda Lovejoy was his opponent during the 2006 Navajo Nation Election. By a small majority of the popular vote, Joe Shirley and Ben Shelly were elected. They were inaugurated in January 2007.

In 2008, Shirley announced his endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton for president of the United States.[9] On June 14, 2008, Shirley was awarded the Barry Goldwater Human Rights Corporate Award, in recognition of support of Navajo LGBT rights after the veto of the 2005 Diné Marriage Act.[10] In 2009, President Barack Obama made Shirley a member of the Federal Department of Homeland Security's Advisory Council.[11] On December 11, 2009, Navajo voters voted to reduce the Navajo Nation Tribal Council from 88 to 27 members, a reform of which was described as a substantial success for Shirley's administration's reform advocacy.[12] In 2010, Shirley's administration was investigated for impropriety.[13] Controversy around Desert Rock Coal Energy Plant also circulated around the Shirley Administration.[14] In February 2014, charges were dismissed against Shirley's alleged role in discretionary spending irregularities.[15]

2014–2015 Navajo presidential election[edit]

In 2014, Shirley stood as a presidential candidate with Dineh Benally as his vice president.[16] In the primary election, Shirley garnered 10,910 votes, followed by Chris Deschene with 9,374[17] (the Navajo Court would later remove Deschene from the election and replace him with runner up in the Primary Russell Begaye). The Navajo Supreme Court postponed the 2014 General Election,[18] which was later scheduled by the Navajo Nation Election Administration to be held as a Special Presidential Election on April 21, 2015 with Dr. Joe Shirley Jr. and Russell Begaye running for the Navajo Nation Presidential ticket in the rescheduled General Election.[19] On April 21, 2015, after the 7pm deadline for the Presidential election, the former Navajo Nation President and third term hopeful Joe Shirley Jr., ultimately lost the Navajo Presidential bid in what was known as one of "the biggest upsets in Navajo Nation election history," where Shirley and Dineh Benally received 15,439 votes (37.49%) against opponent Russell Begaye and Jonathan Nez receiving 25,745 votes (62.51%).[20]


  1. ^ a b "Navajo inauguration is all-day event". 2003-01-08. Retrieved 2012-07-09. [dead link]
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  7. ^ "Joe Shirley elected Navajo Nation President"
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  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
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Preceded by
Kelsey A. Begaye
President of the Navajo Nation
Succeeded by
Ben Shelly