Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas mourns loss of chief

Chief Mikko Skaalaba is being mourned by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. His death on Aug. 9 came after a short illness.

Herbert G. Johnson, Sr., principal chief of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, has passed away after a brief hospital stay on Aug. 9. He was 79 years old and had served as Mikko Choba Skaalaba since Jan. 1, 2020.

A member of the Beaver Clan, Johnson served his people in many capacities throughout his entire life. He was twice elected to the Tribal Council and worked as the Tribal Security Director for over twenty-one years. He was elected as the Tribe’s Second Chief on October 5, 2013, and remained in that position until he was installed as Principal Chief following the passing of the then Principal Chief – Mikko Colabe III – the late Clem Sylestine in 2019.

A deacon and elder at the Indian Presbyterian Church, he also served on the Big Sandy (Dallardsville) School Board for 48 years.

Johnson was born on April 3, 1942, on the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Indian Reservation near Livingston, Texas. After high school, Mr. Johnson enrolled at Jacksonville College in Jacksonville, Texas. A Jacksonville College legend, he earned All-American status in Basketball following the 1963 season.

Although he stood only 5-feet, six inches, he set a then all-time national record when he scored 67 points in a single game. He went on to average 33.5 points a game for the season in an era that did not feature a 3-point shot. Jacksonville College honored Mr. Johnson as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2020. Mr. Johnson also attended the University of Houston and played for Coach Guy V. Lewis for one year.

When asked by the Smithsonian National Museum of American Indians what message he would like to share with Tribal youth, Johnson stated, “Our future lies with you. Choose a good path, follow it, and fulfill your dreams. Keep your traditions alive. Make good choices. Always stay positive and make a difference.”

Nita Battise, chairperson of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, said Mikko Choba Skaalaba was an inspiration to all.

“He was always respectful of all people and listened carefully before forming a decision. His leadership and guidance were a great asset to the Tribe and he will be deeply missed,” she said.

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe will be observing a period of mourning. Funeral information is not available at this time.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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