The funeral for former Choctaw chief, Phillip Martin, was held Monday at his home church in his home community in Neshoba County.
Martin suffered a massive heart attack last week and died a few days later. He was 83 years old.
The Air Force veteran was given a 21-gun salute. But the part of his life spent in service to the Choctaw people will be especially remembered.
The beat of a single drum ushered in the Martin family. Students from Tucker Elementary School, where Martin attended classes, lined the highway, and hundreds gathered at Holy Rosary Catholic Church to bid a final farewell to the man known by many simply as 'Chief'.'
Martin's wife of more than 50 years, Bonnie, and their two daughters were joined by hundreds who gathered to reflect on Martin's life and legacy. Among those was U.S Representative Gregg Harper, Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant and Philadelphia Mayor James Young, along with a host of other state, local and tribal dignitaries from around the nation.
'The vision Chief Martin had helped to form the United South Eastern Tribes. It grew from 4 original tribes into 25 recognized tribes, federally recognized from Florida to Maine. That is vision," said Brian Patterson, president of the United South and Eastern Tribes.
Speakers were set up outside the sanctuary to allow those on the outside to hear the service. For about two hours, people filed into the church to pay final respects to the man many credit with taking the Choctaw Tribe from poverty to prosperity.
"He's done a lot for the tribe," said current chief, Miko Beasley Denson. "I'm happy that he gave me an opportunity. A lot of him is part of me. I worked for him for 35 years and he was a great man."
Martin was buried at Holy Rosary Cemetery next to the church.