Choctaw Tribe Reacts to Passing of Phillip Martin

The chief of the Mississippi Choctaw, Miko Beasley Denson, released the following statement on the death of longtime former chief, Phillip Martin.

“I, along with every member of our Tribe, am saddened by the passing of Philip 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. Our Tribe and all of Indian Country would not be where we are today without his leadership, commitment to self-determination and his dedication to economic development. My prayers are with his family.”

The rest of the Choctaw Tribe's news release appears below:

Martin served as the democratically elected Tribal Chief for 28 years and served in Tribal government for 45. He brought the Choctaw people out of dire poverty by focusing on economic development and self-determination. He established over a dozen Tribally-owned enterprises, diversified the Tribe’s economy and created over 9,000 jobs. He was responsible for the creation of an 80-acre industrial park, a Tribally-owned construction company, and several public service enterprises. Due to his efforts, the Tribe is now one of Mississippi’s largest employers.

Martin built the Tribe’s first casino, the Silver Star Hotel and Casino, in 1994 and added a second casino, the Golden Moon, in 2002. The two casinos, Geyser Falls Water Theme Park and Dancing Rabbit Golf Club comprise Pearl River Resort, the largest and most profitable Choctaw enterprise. The Resort became a catalyst for economic growth and jobs not only on the Reservation but throughout East Central Mississippi.

The list of his other accomplishments and awards is long. He served in the Air Force for ten years, was president of the National Tribal Chairmen’s Association and president of United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. He was the first president of the Board of Regents of Haskell Indian Junior College, now Haskell Indian Nations University. He established the Choctaw Tribal Scholarship Program which allows all Tribal students to attend the colleges and universities of their choice.

His achievements have been honored by dozens of national organizations, among them the Small Business Administration, the United Indian Development Association, the United Indian Youth Organization and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

He held an honorary degree from Millsaps College, is a member of the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame and was named Man of the Year by the Philadelphia Neshoba County Chamber of Commerce in 1997.

He is survived by his wife Bonnie, daughters Deborah Lewis and Patricia Gibson, 5 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.


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  • by Anonymous on Feb 8, 2010 at 11:24 AM
    A GREAT MAN ,A DETERMINED HUMAN BEING ,SOMEONE WHO NEVER GIVES UP AND WHO LIVED FOR HIS CHOCTAW PEOPLE !HE IS LOVED AS WELL AS RESPECTED;LOOK AROUND YOU EVERY TIME YOU WALK ON THE RESERVATION EVERY TIME YOU SEE A CHOCTAW ACCOMPLISH HIS AND HER DREAM(S) IT'S BECUASE OF MR.PHILLIP MARTIN! HIS VISION TURNED INTO SOMETHING YOU CAN GRASP SOMETHING YOU AS AN INDIVUAL CAN TURN INTO REALITY!HE OPENED SO MANY DOORS FOR US HE BELIEVED IN US IN OUR DREAMS! MAY HE ALWAYS REST IN PEACE TO HIS FAMILY MY PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU ALL ! HE WAS SUCH A BLESSING TO US ALL! HE SHOWED US WHAT POWER WE ALL HAVE IF WE STAY DETERMINED NOT ONLY AS INDIVIDUALS BUT AS A TRIBE.THANK YOU CHIEF! AS MY HEART BREAKS FOR YOU TO HAVE SEEN WHAT YOU BUILT SLOWLY GO DOWN NFRONT OF YOU WE ARE ALL VERY THANKFUL YOU STUCK WITH US ALL AND NEVER GAVE UP ON US!!! AS WE ARE VERY HEART BROKEN AND OUR EYES ARE FILLED WITH TEARS WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOUR SMILE THAT LIT UP A ROOM ,AND YOUR PASSION FOR OUR TRIBE ! GOD BLESS YOU !
  • by Anonymous Location: Neshoba on Feb 6, 2010 at 07:39 PM
    Our great leader Phillip Martin has done so much for the tribe not only as a chief but also a caring individual that saw the needs for the Choctaw people and also established "self determination".He is the definition of what a great leader should be.As for Mr.Denson I'm pretty sure we're thinking to ourselves "Are we sure that he's the right man for this job?" Only time will tell.Our choctaw people, we need to open our eyes and see what is going on for when something goes wrong we can only use the power of voice to get things done right.Just because the political system is what you think is done correctly its not and the current Miko now is making it too obvious.Remember you will reap what you sow.And not to mention there WILL be someone who will step up to the plate and make this tribe whole and done fairly.So don't breathe a sigh of fresh air yet.Miko Phillip Martin you will be remembered as a legacy and it will live on.
  • by Anonymous Location: neshoba on Feb 6, 2010 at 05:09 PM
    we have lost a true chief and he will never be replaced. He was my Miko. Its our turn to say "Shame on You" to the people who disrespected him and now want to shed a tear. My thoughts and prayers go to the family of Miko Phillip Martin. You will never be forgotten.
  • by R.T. Location: Choctaw MS on Feb 6, 2010 at 10:10 AM
    Matt.16-26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Chief Martin, you surely have a place in heaven. We, your people will never forget what you have done for us. You led us out of our "dark ages", we will continue to honor your belief in us.
  • by Anonymous Location: Bok Cito on Feb 5, 2010 at 03:15 PM
    The day the world stood still for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. GOD BLESS CHIEF PHILLIP MARTIN(the real Miko),Bonnie and the rest of the Martin family. My you rest n peace with god as you watch over your choctaw nation and to help us rebulit our economic growth, cause Mr. Denson has destroyed everything that Phillip has accomplished as tribal chief.Im am so sad to see him go but he is in a better place with god. YAKOKI MIKO PHILLIP MARTIN
  • by Chief Martin Fan Location: Tucker on Feb 5, 2010 at 10:53 AM
    May GOD Bless Chief Phillip Martin!!! Our Tribe has really lost a GREAT Person and family man!! He will never be forgotton!!! Ms. Bonnie and family- Please be strong for one another! My wish is for Beasley Denson to sit down and think with your brain and use the vision that our chief had seen. You mr. Denson should be ashamed of yourself for what is going on with the Choctaw Tribe today. You have depleated funds for your enjoyment only and that is not what our Chief Phillip Martin earned for our Tribe as a whole!! WE LOVE YOU CHIEF MARTIN!!! GOD BLEES YOU and YA_KO_KI from the bottom of our hearts!!!
  • by Kat Location: Lauderdale on Feb 5, 2010 at 09:51 AM
    I am sure that Denson is saddened by Chief Martin's passing. But, he is also probably breathing a sigh of relief that he will not have to face him in the next election. Hopefully, for the Choctaw people, someone will step up who, while they may not be able to fill Chief Martin's shoes, can at least walk in them. Denson is destroying everything Chief Martin worked so diligently to build.
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