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.