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Stars that died 2010

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hollis E. Roberts, American politician, Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (1978–1997), convicted sex offender, died he was 68.

Hollis Earl Roberts  was a Choctaw politician whose career was highlighted by his 19-year period as chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Hollis Roberts was born on May 9, 1943 in Hochatown, Oklahoma. Roberts is the son of Laura Beam Roberts and Darrell E. Roberts. He attended Holly Creek Elementary and then continued on to Idabel High School, graduating in 1961. Roberts married Helen R. Rodriguez in 1963. They had two boys and one girl.[1] Following his political career, Roberts died on October 19, 2011 at 68 years of age.[2]

(May 9, 1943–October 19, 2011)

Roberts remains an extremely polarizing and controversial figure among the Choctaw. His 19-year reign as chief came to end in 1997 amid convictions of sexual abuse and sexual contact. From his sexual abuse and sexual contact convictions that led to his removal from office, to his exuberant $120,000 a year salary,[3] and alleged corruption, these have all led to a negative view on Roberts. Nevertheless, he served for 19 years as chief of the Choctaws. The Choctaws are one of the largest tribes in the United States with well over 195,000 members, including over 79,000 in Oklahoma. [4]

Early Political Career

Roberts began his political career as a city council person in Hugo City where he served for 14 years. Hugo is a town within the Choctaw Reservation in Oklahoma. Following his time in Hugo, Roberts served six years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, representing Choctaw County. Choctaw county was only six per cent Indians, making his dramatic victory that much more captivating. Following his time as a member of the Oklahoma House Representative, Roberts served from 1975-1978 as Choctaw Chief David Gardner’s assistant. [5]

Election as chief

Hollis Roberts was elected chief of the Choctaws in 1978 following the death of Chief David Garner. His election into office came at the tail end of the Red Power movement (add link to wiki entry for Red Power). As a young, energetic, and charismatic leader, Roberts embodied much of the Red Power Movement. He was a guiding voice for change at a time when Indian sovereignty was at a countrywide high. Roberts ran against political rival Charles Brown. Brown was a popular, but older politician, who was well respected by Choctaws. Roberts won in a tight election, winning by only 339 votes.[6]


1983 was big year for both Roberts and the Choctaw. Roberts proposed a new constitution to the Choctaw people. A major component of this new constitution was the removal of blood quantum for tribal membership. This increased the number of members of the Choctaw tribe. The new constitution did not come without controversy. While there was no minimum blood quantum for tribal membership, there was an enforced blood quantum of ¼ to be elected to tribal office. Additionally, women were given the right to vote with the new constitution. This new constitution was voted in 2,253 to 780 on July 9 1983. As chief, it was Roberts job to appoint tribal judges. In 1983 Roberts appointed Juanita Jefferson, the first female Choctaw judge. [7] Roberts was reelected in 1983. Another big year was 1992. In 1992 the Choctaw and Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes sign compact with State of Oklahoma. This compact equates to Indians paying a fee to the federal government each year instead of paying taxes on tobacco products sold to non-natives on their reservations. The result of this was that the Choctaw had to pay 75% less to the federal government and were thus able to increase their profit on the reservations. [8] Roberts worked to increase health standards, population, and promote a healthy economy. During his time in charge, tuberculosis and infant mortality rates among the Choctaw decreased dramatically. [9] Roberts’s ability to negotiate for federal funding and to set up programs for his people was influential. Additionally Roberts was credited for the increase in tribal population by creating a new publicly approved constitution that opened up membership to all Indians with any Choctaw blood. The biggest improvement in his Constitution however may have been giving female Choctaws the right to vote in tribal elections. Under his reign, the Choctaw increased health standards, population, and set forth intensive economic growth campaigns. [10] Today many view Roberts as a criminal, but in his heyday many also viewed him as a charismatic politician who brought much needed change to the Choctaw.


On June 6, 1997, Roberts’s time as chief came to an end with his conviction in a federal court in Muskogee, Ok. Roberts was convicted on two counts of sexual contact and one count of aggravated sexual abuse involving two female employees of the tribe. He was sentenced to eleven years in prison. The aggravated sexual abuse count carried a possible life sentence. The jury acquitted Mr. Roberts on four similar counts, three of them involving a former tribal employee who testified that Mr. Roberts had raped her. [11] [12] Hollis Roberts attempted an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on sexual-abuse convictions and his 11-year prison sentence, but lost both appeals. One of his appeals was that the U.S. District Court lacked jurisdiction where the assaults took place because they happened in Tribal complex property which was trust land and thus not Indian Country nor formally apart of the reservation. The government ruled against this appeal claiming that the federal government owned the land in trust for Indians and it was thus Indian Country. Roberts also argued that he should not have an enhanced sentence for abusing a position of trust. [3]

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