TAHLEQUAH, Okla. -- Deputy Principal Chief Joe Grayson Jr. may be one of
the most important members of the Cherokee Nation tribal government, but he
simply refers to himself as an "old working guy" who enjoys hands-on hard
Grayson was elected to the office of Eastern Oklahoma area vice president
for the National Congress of American Indians during 62nd annual convention
in early November. He will serve a two-year term on the NCAI board of
directors. "I am extremely honored to serve in this position," said
Grayson. "I will represent all Indians equally and fairly. I will be Indian
first and Cherokee second."
Grayson received 53 percent of the votes cast, beating out Charles Locust,
deputy chief of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma,
with 31 percent, and John Berry, chairman of the Quapaw Nation, with 16
percent for the coveted office.
As vice president, Grayson will preside over three annual meetings of the
Eastern Oklahoma NCAI caucuses and will represent the Eastern Oklahoma area
on the board. He will represent the Muscogee Creek, Chickasaw, Shawnee,
Quapaw, Osage, Miami, Alabama Quassarte, Delaware, and the United Keetoowah
Band of Cherokee, as well as the Cherokee Nations.
In addition, he will continue with his regular duties as deputy principal
"[Principal Chief Chad Smith] and I work 24/7," Grayson pointed out. "If I
go to the store, people stop me. If I go to Wal-Mart, people stop and ask
me a few questions. I've gotten phone calls late in the evening and late at
night. As far as an average day, it's probably nine hours or so, maybe 10.
A lot of times it's more than that. It's not a five-day-a-week job because
on weekends Chad and I go places."
Grayson's job also includes taking Smith's place when he cannot attend
meetings, which requires knowledge of tribal affairs and business. Aside
from that, he regularly presides over the tribal council meetings. "I only
get to vote in case of a tie. I have been deputy chief for two years and
I've gotten to vote twice, and that was during the same night," he laughed.
The deputy chief worked as a plumber for more than 30 years, retiring after
20 years at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah in 2003. He attributes his
strong work ethic to his experience in the military.
He served with the 4th Infantry Division in the central highlands of
Vietnam near Cambodia from 1968 -- '69. And he hails from four generations
of veterans, including his grandfather, Napoleon Bonaparte Grayson, who
served in the Army during World War I; his father, Joe Grayson Sr., who
served in the Army during World War II, and his son, Stuart, who served as
a Marine in Europe before Sept. 11, 2001.
After his release from the Army, he selected plumbing as a profession while
attending a job fair in Tulsa. "The VA hospital in Muskogee had an opening
for a plumber and an electrician. I hate to get shocked, but I don't mind
getting wet, so I went for the plumbing position."
Grayson also enjoys gun collecting and hunting. "I hunt deer, rabbit and
all kinds of small things, but I don't get to hunt as much now since I'm
deputy chief." He said he doesn't mind missing out on hunting because he
enjoys serving Indian people.
During a brief speech before the assembled Eastern Oklahoma tribal voters,
Grayson said he believed his experience as a veteran and as deputy
principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, the largest tribe in Oklahoma, made
him a viable candidate for the national office.