Much of this material originally appeared on a Law Adjunct Faculty page hosted by utulsa.edu.

Philip H. Viles, Jr.

Professor Philip Viles has been affiliated with The University of Tulsa for almost 59 years as a student, an employee (Director of Annual Giving), a donor, and as an adjunct faculty member. He retired from the U.S. Department of the Interior in May 2013 after serving ten years in Washington, DC under the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

The last six of those years, Viles managed a guaranteed loan program with a $75 million/year guarantee budget and a $520 million portfolio of loans and loan guarantees, supervising 15 employees across five time zones, using his TU degrees (JD, MBA) on a daily basis.

He has been an invited speaker at TU and an invited panelist and speaker on financial and Native American topics ranging from two conferences of the Native American Finance Officers’ Association to the Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Conference, (April 2013). In November 2019, he received a special invitation to attend the White House Conference on Supporting Contemporary Native American Veterans. In addition to several Cabinet Secretaries, Vice President Mike Pence met with the group.

Viles is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and served continuously on that Nation’s highest court for over 25 years, 16 years of those as Chief Justice of the Cherokee Nation. He was invited to sit with the Supreme Court of Georgia in September, 1993 to hear two cases. In 1994, he had private meetings with two Associate US Supreme Court Justices (Breyer and Ginsburg) and Chief Justice Rehnquist in 1994 in their chambers, after which, Rehnquist moved Viles’ admission to the US Supreme Court. Three years later, Viles met with C.J. Rehnquist again, and three years after that, had a private meeting with Attorney General Janet Reno and two of her top aides, in her office, to discuss Cherokee affairs. Viles is licensed to practice in the courts of the Cherokee Nation, all Oklahoma courts (since 1975), two of the three federal district courts in Oklahoma (Northern District and Eastern District), and in the U.S. Supreme Court.  He is a member of the Master Lawyers section of the Oklahoma Bar Association.

Because of his working relationship with Cherokee Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller and his almost 30 years’ service to the Cherokee Nation, Viles was interviewed for the documentary film “Mankiller” and has his own listing in IMDb, the Internet Movie Database.

Professor Viles served as one of only 79 delegates to the 1999 Cherokee Nation Constitutional Convention, Tahlequah, Oklahoma. (It had been 160 years since the Cherokees’ previous constitutional convention.) He was awarded the Cherokee National Medal of Patriotism in 2003, “in recognition for service to the tribe and upholding the Cherokee Constitution”. Viles is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and holds five military decorations from the United States, two from the Republic of Vietnam, and one from the Cherokee Nation.

Viles served as a director of two Oklahoma banks over a 22-year period and was on the board of directors of two other Oklahoma financial service firms between 1985 and 2000. He has experience as a bank trust officer and a small-business owner.  On February 12, 2024, he was named Banking Director for the Catawba Digital Economic Zone (CDEZ), a special jurisdiction within the Catawba Reservation in South Carolina, aimed at empowering emerging digital technology companies, including Bitcoin companies.  This is the first sovereign DEZ and the first tribally-chartered financial system in the United States.  For more information, see first Tulsa Law Review article below.

A life member of the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Cherokee National Historical Society, Viles is also a charter member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame (now known as National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum) and the United States Capitol Historical Society. He is a long-time member of the Rotary Club of Tulsa.  From early 2022 until late 2023, Viles volunteered at the Coffee Bunker in Tulsa, listening to fellow veterans talk about their legal problems and helping whenever possible.  He is a life member of the Disabled American Veterans.

His publications include:

Notes to his education:

  • M.L.I.S., University of Oklahoma: selected by the faculty for Beta Phi Mu (international honor society)
  • M.B.A., University of Tulsa; member of TU’s Loyalty Society.
  • J.D., University of Tulsa: was a member of the Tulsa Law Journal (now the Tulsa Law Review) and Phi Delta Phi (international legal honor society)
  • B.A., University of Virginia: lived on The Lawn in a room built in the 1820s, an honor reserved for 47 graduating students “who have made significant contributions to the University”, member of Beta Theta Pi (social fraternity) and Delta Sigma Pi (professional business fraternity). Echols Scholar, member of The Thomas Jefferson Society and has been a member of both the 1838 Society and the Rotunda Society.  At the University, he was a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, founded in 1825 and the second oldest Greek-lettered organization in the United States, after Phi Beta Kappa.

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Meetings With Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court
Service on the Cherokee Nation Judicial Appeals Tribunal (now the Supreme Court) 1976-2002, 16 of those years were as Chief Justice of the Cherokee Nation
My 1993 invitation to sit with the Georgia Supreme Court at New Echota, GA, capital of the Cherokee Nation East (before removal in the 1830s)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution of September 24, 1993
Invitation letter from the Georgia Chief Justice
Invitation letter from the Georgia Chief Justice
National television appearances 7 live on C-SPAN 1 taped on Today Show
On September 7, 1995, I appeared on C-SPAN to discuss my Statuary Hall guidebook and to take questions from callers. The 35 minute broadcast was live from Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.  Susan Swain was the host. C-SPAN Archives # 67008 at 0:52:00
On November 8, 1995, I again appeared live from Statuary Hall for 30 minutes. The program followed the same format–a brief discussion of the collection, some information about three or four of the statues, and then open phone lines.  Connie Brod (later Executive Producer of BOOKTV for C-SPAN)  was the host.  C-SPAN Archives # 68206 at 1:33:50, following my friend, former Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe
Then, on November 9, 1995, I had 30 additional minutes of the same format, this time from the Hall of Columns on the first floor of the Capitol.    Susan Swain was the host.  C-SPAN Archives # 68231-1 at 0:53:13
On September 23, 1996, I was live for 26 minutes from the Senate Reception Room of the U.S. Capitol, to discuss art in that room and throughout the Capitol. There were approximately ten questions phoned in during the show; one was from Hawaii.  Brian Lamb, founder of C-SPAN, was the studio host and is fighting (successfully) to maintain his composure after tossing me a caller’s question on whether vegetarian artists should have that fact noted on the nameplates of their artwork.   C-SPAN 75330-1 at 0:45:34
On May 23, 1997, I appeared live for 25 minutes, from the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. I discussed the statue of astronaut Jack Swigert, dedicated the day before, by the State of Colorado. I also talked about the recently-moved Suffragette Monument.  Steven Scully was the host.  C-SPAN Archives # 81401-1 at 0:00:10
On June 6, 2000, I appeared live for almost 10 minutes, from the House Connecting Corridor (2nd floor) to discuss the four states which had not sent a second statue and the plans of three of them to do so.  I also talked about the proposed legislation which would allow substitution of statues.  Paul Orgel was the host. C-SPAN video 157532-1 at 0:29:22
On September 8, 2000 I appeared live for 15 minutes, from the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.  I discussed the statue of Chief Washakie, dedicated the day before, by the State of Wyoming. I also gave an update on the legislation which I had mentioned in June.  I worked with Connie Brod – see November 8, 1995 above. C-SPAN Archives # 159126-3 (first minute or so of interview is missing)
NBC News national TV appearance
NBC News sent a two-man crew to Tulsa on April 15, 1999 to tape my comments on a possible move by Kansas to change its Statuary Hall nominees.  Taping was done in the Dean’s office of the University of Tulsa College of Law.  Story was aired on the “Today Show” in the summer of 1999.
pv@utulsa.edu   |   viles@swbell.net   |   918.625.0064