Chief Houston McGhee went to William Bailey and made one request – build my coffin. Saturday, February 4, Chief McGhee was laid to rest in that hand-made coffin.
People in the funeral home chapel filled the pews, stood in the back, and spilled out into the lobby to hear the words of the Rev. Robert Thrower and to pay their respects to the family and to the man who was the last chief of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
Two men – Douglas Daughtry and Kendall Reed – in Native American dress stood at the coffin, one at the head, one at the foot.
McGhee was the son of Chief Calvin McGhee who passed away in 1970. The son became chief and continued his father’s work. With the change in tribal government in the 1970s, the position of chief was replaced by a chairman elected by the tribal council. But the title of chief, as the title of president, is lifelong.
“What an honor it is to speak here today,” Rev. Thrower said in his eulogy. “Houston was, is and always will be chief.”
Thrower recounted many of Chief McGhee’s contributions to the tribe; among them, the annual Pow Wow was started; the tribal dance team was formed; and work on federal recognition continued. Several of the pallbearers were members of the dance team as were Daughtry and Reed standing by the coffin.
It is also notable that Chief McGhee’s influence went beyond the Poarch and Atmore area. The following paragraph is from Creek Nation East of the Mississippi: “During the latter years of Chief Calvin McGhee’s life, Creek Indian descendants in places other than Poarch began organizing their own local councils and sponsoring activities to promote the cause of the American Indian. In order to prevent detrimental competition among the councils, an Eastern Creek Unity Conference was held at the Poarch Indian School in February 1973. At this meeting, leaders of the various local Eastern Creek groups recognized Houston McGhee as Chief of the entire Creek Nation East o the Mississippi and acknowledged Poarch as the center of Eastern Creek affairs.”
During the funeral, Thrower said McGhee was known for his deep concern and passion for his people.
“You’re here today because he touched your life,” he said. “…Houston had a fear of being forgotten…We have assurance this man will not be forgotten. When you look at the tribal flag, remember Houston McGhee.”