Poarch Creek Indians mourn the death of leader, Fred McGhee
Published 2:37 am Monday, May 22, 2006
By By Adam Prestridge
The flags flew at half-staff on the Poarch Creek Indian Reservation Friday as the sovereign nation mourned the loss of its leader.
Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Chairman Fred L. McGhee, 56, died Thursday morning at Spring Hill Memorial Hospital in Mobile after a long battle with heart problems.
Friends, family and co-workers described McGhee, who served five years on the Tribal Council and two terms as Tribal Chairman, as a man with a great vision and who cared deeply about the Tribe.
"The Tribe is saddened by the passing of Chairman McGhee," Poarch Community Relations Director Sharon Delmar said. "He was a great leader and a visionary. Chairman McGhee has touched the lives of many people within the Tribe and the community. His many contributions to the Tribe will have a lasting impact on the future of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians."
Chairman McGhee's love and commitment for the Tribe was summarized best during his recent State of the Tribe address.
"As I look out at you I am thinking what an honor it is to serve as your Chairman," he said. "I love this community and I want to do right by you. I may not be perfect, but I do try to do what is right. And sometimes doing right is the hard thing to do. But I believe it is worth it to make our lives and our children's lives better."
Not only did Chairman McGhee work well in his role in the Poarch community, but also he did so with surrounding communities and public entities.
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell expressed his deep sympathy to the Tribe and his gratitude for Chairman McGhee's assistance in numerous projects the City of Atmore and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians have worked together in.
"We certainly had a very pleasant working relationship with Chairman Fred McGhee and enjoyed his input on mutual projects the City of Atmore and the Poarch Creek Indians are working on," Shell said. "We're going to miss his input and guidance and certainly his friendship."
Chairman McGhee also saw to it that the Poarch community gave back to organizations such as the American Red Cross and numerous other non-profit organizations. One of the latest commitments Poarch entered into was as corporate sponsor of the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I was both shocked and saddened to learn about the death of Tribal Chairman Fred McGhee," Chamber director Emilie Mims said. " Even with his health problems Fred always pressed forward. He had a real zest for life. I was looking forward to working with him as the Poarch Creek Indians realize the many dreams they have on the drawing board. His leadership and his friendship will be greatly missed. The Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce officers, board of directors and staff wish to extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family and the PCI community."
Over the years, Poarch has also worked well with several public service organizations throughout Escambia County including the Atmore Police Department, Atmore Fire &Rescue Department and the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.
"We've always had a great relationship with Poarch and we feel like this is a set back for everybody," ECSO Sheriff Grover Smith said. "We know that the Tribe will elect a leader that will carry on the things Chairman Fred McGhee began. Nobody can replace him, but I know that he would want the Tribe to put someone in there that will carry on his work."
Elections for new council members will be held on June 3. The new members will vote for a new Tribal Chairman.
Chairman McGhee will be laid to rest today in New Home Cemetery in Poarch following a 2 p.m. funeral service at Atmore Memorial Chapel Funeral Home.