Thomas M. Buffington
1899 – 1903
Born in the Goingsnake District of the Cherokee Nation, he attended tribal school in what is now Delaware County. His brother, Ezekiel Buffington, was a missionary who removed from Georgia to the West in 1835. Buffington began his career in tribal politics as secretary to his brother who was a member of the Cherokee Senate. He was elected district judge of Delaware District in 1889 and resigned in 1891 to become a member of the Cherokee Senate. He was later named President of that body. When Joel Mayes died in 1891, he became Acting Principal Chief where he served until C.J. Harris was named Chief. Then becoming Mayor of Vinita, he soon was nominated as a Downing Party candidate for Principal Chief, winning the election of 1899. He served as Chief in a very trying and controversial time. Most of the details of land surveys and allotments preparing for statehood occurred during his tenure.
Known for many years as the “last Cherokee Chief” because his successor W.C. Rogers never had the power and authority usually exercised by tribal chiefs, he died at his home in Vinita February 11, 1938.