Chief Philip Martin
Chief Philip Martin has a more than 45-year record of service and leadership in the Choctaw Nation tribal government, including serving from 1979 to 2007 as Tribal Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a federally-recognized American Indian tribe of 9,100 enrolled members living on or near 35,000 acres of reservation land in east central Mississippi. Miko Beasley Denson was sworn in July 10 as the third Chief of the Tribe since adoption of its modern Constitution to succeed Martin.
During his 28-year tenure as Chief, Martin made economic development a Choctaw Nation priority, leading a once impoverished constituency with an unemployment rate as high as 75 percent unemployment into a base for prosperous business activity that included auto-parts manufacturing, a casino and printing plant. Before Martin, the majority of Choctaw housing was designated as substandard, children largely stopped going to school at the 6th grade and life expectancy barely topped 50 years old.
The reservation became a key source of employment for Choctaws. More than 9,000 full-time jobs were created on the reservation under Martin - placing the Tribe in the unique position as the largest employer in east central Mississippi and among the three largest employers in the State. Martin advocated the reservation as an enterprise zone, drawing in financial resources and business incentives.
Under his watch, Martin created enterprises that produced goods for industry titans as diverse as General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and McDonnell-Douglas and AT&T, Xerox, Westinghouse and Navistar. One of the reservation's major auto plants opened in 1979 and assembled automotive wire harnesses for General Motors.
Martin also saw to it that the reservation would focus on self-sufficiency. It manages its own reservation government and operates elementary, middle and high school, as well as a hospital and community clinics and water, sewer and waste-disposal systems.