Phillip Martin

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Phillip Martin
Phillip martin.jpg
Phillip Martin, Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Born March 13, 1926
Philadelphia, Mississippi
Died February 4, 2010(2010-02-04) (aged 83)
Jackson, Mississippi
Cause of death Complications of a stroke[1]
Resting place Holy Rosary Catholic Church cemetery[1]
Residence Mississippi
Nationality Mississippi Choctaw, United States
Occupation Tribal chief
Predecessor Calvin Isaac
Successor Beasley Denson
Spouse(s) Bonnie Kate Bell[1]

Phillip Martin (March 13, 1926 – February 4, 2010) was a Native American political leader, the democratically elected Tribal Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. This federally recognized American Indian tribe has 8,300 enrolled members living on or near 30,000 acres (120 km²) of reservation land in east central Mississippi.[2] Martin had a 40-year record of service to the Tribal government, including 32 years as the Tribe's principal elected official. Chief Martin left office in 2007 after the election of Miko Beasley Denson.[3]

Early life[edit]

Phillip Martin was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1926, to parents who were Choctaw. He grew up in the culture of his people and attended local schools.


After serving in the US Air Force for a decade, Martin returned to his home in Mississippi. He entered tribal leadership in 1957.[1] He was first elected tribal chief in 1979.[1]

Nationally, Martin served as president of the National Tribal Chairmen's Association, and in 1969 founded the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. (USET), an association of the 23 federally recognized tribes in the eastern portion of the United States. Martin served as founding president of USET. He was the first president of the Board of Regents of Haskell Indian Junior College (now Haskell Indian Nations University), serving from 1970 to 1976.

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. He helped tribes develop gaming facilities on their reservations to generate revenues for tribal welfare, education and income. At the time of his death, the chief presided over the USET Gaming Association.

Locally, Chief Martin served the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians on numerous Boards of Directorship. During his tenure as Tribal Chief, Martin was known for developing an industrial park on the reservation, and the "$750 million Pearl River Resort, complete with two casinos, a golf club and a water park... He was praised for creating thousands of jobs. He also set up a scholarship that pays 100 percent of college costs for tribal youth."[4] Other Tribal businesses and service operations he established on the Choctaw Indian Reservation include the following:[4]

  • Pearl River Resort (est. 2000)
  • Choctaw Resort Development Enterprise (est. 1999)
  • Choctaw Housing Development Enterprise (est. 1995)
  • Choctaw Golf Enterprise (est. 1995)
  • Silver Star Resort and Casino (est. 1994)
  • First American Plastic Molding Enterprise (est. 1993)
  • Choctaw Construction Enterprise (est. 1993)
  • First American Printing and Direct Mail Enterprise (est. 1990)
  • Choctaw Shopping Center (est. 1988)
  • Choctaw Residential Center (est. 1987)
  • Choctaw Manufacturing Enterprise (est. 1986)
  • Chata Enterprise (est. 1979)
  • Choctaw Development Enterprise (est. 1969)

He wrote a memoir, Chief: The Autobiography of Phillip Martin.[1] Martin said, "I felt compelled to recount the major events of my life because I believe I owe it to the Choctaw people, especially the young and those yet to be born."[1]

Death and legacy[edit]

Martin died on February 4, 2010 in a Jackson, Mississippi hospital after suffering a stroke days earlier.[1][4] He is survived by his wife, Bonnie Kate Bell, their two daughters Deborah and Patricia, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Preceded by
Emmett York
Tribal Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
1959 – August 2007
Succeeded by
Beasley Denson

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Former Choctaw Tribal Chief Phillip Martin dead at 83." Neshoba Democrat. 4 Feb 2010 (retrieved 25 April 2010)
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (15 February 2010). "Phillip Martin, Who Led His Tribe to Wealth, Is Dead at 83". New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c "Obituary: Phillip Martin", New Orleans Picayune online (