Gary Batton was born December 15, 1966 in Wichita, Kansas, the youngest of four children, to Earl and Dolly Batton. He graduated from Clayton High School in Clayton, Oklahoma in 1985. He is 15/32 degree Choctaw and is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Batton began working for his tribe in 1987 as a clerk in the Purchasing Department while also attending Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management in 1989, he accepted the position of Deputy Director at the Choctaw Nation Housing Authority. While at Housing, he was responsible for the management of Housing Authority operations and established several programs including the Choctaw Nation Drug Elimination Program, Family Investment Center Program and the Choctaw Nation Boys and Girls Club.
In 1997, he was appointed to the position of Executive Director of Health by Chief Gregory E. Pyle. His first undertaking after stepping into the role was replacing the Choctaw Nation Hospital, a former Tuberculosis Center constructed in the 1930s, with a state-of-the-art Choctaw Nation Health Care Center, a 37-bed hospital with a 52-exam room outpatient clinic. It was the first tribally funded health facility in the United States. Upon completion of construction, the $28-million facility was completely debt-free. While Batton was managing the health system, the patient load doubled from 120,000 to over 240,000.
He continued to expand and improve the Choctaw Nation health system by adding clinics in Idabel, Stigler and Atoka and replacing or expanding outdated existing clinics in Hugo, Broken Bow and McAlester. He constructed a new facility for adult inpatient alcohol and drug treatment and a hospitality house for patients traveling long distances for appointments at the health care center in Talihina. He also brought additional services including ophthalmology, orthopedics, cardiology, physical therapy and a mail-order pharmacy in-house.
Batton developed partnerships with other organizations and governments to add even more services to the health system. Through partnerships with OU Health Sciences Center; Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) services began being offered at Talihina and a program for specialized care for high-risk youth with diabetes was started. A partnership with Eastern Oklahoma State College brought about the establishment of a dental hygienist program. A coalition with the State of Oklahoma and other Oklahoma Tribes led to the establishment of REACH, a program to promote physical activity and reduce the lifetime risks of cardiovascular disease.
Concerned by the fact that some tribal businesses were not profitable and impressed with the growth and improvements to the health system, Chief Pyle appointed Batton to the position of Assistant Chief in May 2007. Batton immediately took action to grow the businesses and improve the profitability for the benefit of Choctaw members.
As the Assistant Chief, his focus changed from improving the health system for tribal members to growing and improving the entire Choctaw Nation for the benefit of tribal members. Among his numerous duties, he served as Chairman of the Choctaw Nation Business Committee where his first initiative was the development of an economic plan that consisted of $385 million in construction to expand gaming facilities in Durant, Grant, McAlester and Stringtown. This plan was a boost to the economy in the 10 ½ counties and created more than 700 jobs for the area. Under his guidance, the profitability for all tribal businesses improved with an overall increase of 69%.
Upon Chief Gregory Pyle’s retirement, Gary Batton became the 47thChief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the third-largest Indian tribe in the United States, on April 28, 2014. After being sworn into office, Chief Batton set a clear direction in his inaugural address indicating a specific vision for his administration. He maintained the position by an overwhelming vote of the Choctaw People in the July 2015 general election.
Chief Batton spends countless hours in the communities with the tribal members he serves. He believes his main purpose is to create a better future for the Choctaw people. He works to protect the culture, provide opportunities for education, employment, improved healthcare, and ultimately, do what is best for Choctaws.
Under Chief Batton’s administration, the Choctaw Nation has opened or expanded its health clinics, wellness centers, restaurant franchises, travel plazas, casinos, community centers, food distribution centers, country markets, independent living communities for Choctaw elders, and homes for families. It also opened a new Judicial Center, the focal point of an expanding tribal justice system. Chief Batton also created several new programs like the Next Step supplemental food program and the Reintegration program, which helps tribal members convicted of felonies to become fully productive members of society. The additional facilities and programs have added thousands of jobs to southeastern Oklahoma during his time in office.
Chief Batton is involved in the growth of the entire Choctaw Nation. He continuously looks for ways to improve and expand services, developing programs and services for the best benefit of tribal members.
In addition to his job duties, Chief Batton has represented the Choctaw Nation on numerous boards and committees including the National Budget Committee for Indian Health Service, the National Health Service Corps Advisory Council, the Tribal Technical Advisory Committee for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Thunderbird Youth Academy Foundation Board. He currently serves on the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Advocates, the Choctaw Nation Chahta Foundation Board, the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Foundation Board, the TMC (Texoma Medical Center) Board of Directors, the First United Bank Board of Directors, and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame Board.
Chief Batton has been recognized as one of Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEO’s, as an Oklahoma Creativity Ambassador and as Outstanding Alumni at his Alma Marta, Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Chief Batton continues to urge tribal members to maintain good health through preventative measures and created the Miko’s Fitness Challenge for employees. He exercises regularly, plays Stickball, having traveled to Mississippi to play in World Series of Stickball games and has participated in the Trail of Tears Bike Team rides.
Continued focus is on the revitalization of the Choctaw Nation’s culture, growth and opportunities for tribal members and financial stability of the Tribe as a whole. Preserving and passing down the culture all while providing opportunities for the future and remaining focused on our Faith, Family and Culture. Chief Batton is excited, enthusiastic and energetic in his vision for the Choctaw people. He strives to continue to look to the future on this great journey of the Choctaw people, assuring our legacy as Chahta people continues.
Chief Batton and his wife, Angie, make their home in Clayton, Oklahoma. They have two children, Stacy and David, and grandchildren.