Calvin J. Isaac served as the first elected Tribal Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Calvin J. Isaac served as the first elected Tribal Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Memorial services for Calvin J. Isaac, the first Tribal chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, were held Tuesday afternoon.

Isaac, 86, died Saturday following a lengthy illness. He battled diabetes for many years.

Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben ordered the lowering of all Tribal flags throughout Choctaw Tribal lands out of respect for the family and to honor his memory.

“TaRita and I, along with all Tribal members, join the grieving family over the loss of our first Tribal chief. He will be greatly missed,” said Chief Ben. “I had the great opportunity of knowing Chief Isaac my entire life. He was always a teacher, and I value his words of wisdom. We send our prayers to the entire Isaac family, as we honor the life and legacy of Chief Calvin Isaac.”

Isaac was born in Neshoba County where he lived most of his life. He graduated from Meridian High School. He served four years in the U.S, Army. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Delta State University, and later his Masters degree in education  from Mississippi State University. He was the first Tribal member to earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree.

Isaac became chief in 1975 after the Tribe had changed its Constitution and began electing its leadership. He served one term as Tribal chief. During his term, he testified before Congress concerning the Indian Child Welfare Bill. Years later, Isaac was elected to serve on the Tribal Council. He represented the Pearl River Community.

Along with his duties in Tribal government, he was an educator in the Tribal schools where he served as teacher, assistant principal and principal. He also was pastor of the Camaan Baptist Church.

“Every time the Choctaws succeeded, it brought joy to his heart,” said his nephew, Brant Isaac Jr., who spoke for the family. “No one was a stranger to him. His family was very important to him and he loved to spend time with family members. He enjoyed church activities and church functions,” Isaac said.

“He was a good person to talk to gain insight. He was there for religious assistance, educational matters and motivation. We will greatly miss our family member,” Isaac said.

Tribal members shared their stories about Isaac on the Tribe’s Facebook page. 

Eileen George said he was a “great pillar” of the community and that “words cannont express how much progress he made for Choctaw people.”

“He was an honorable Chief and friend,” LaGatha Kay wrote. “He was a person with great integrity and honor. God bless his family and friends and bring comfort during their loss.”

Members of other Tribal nations also sent their thoughts and prayers.