Hon. Thomas M. Buffington. The substantial position occupied by Hon. Thomas M. Buffington in the confidence of his fellow-citizens at Vinita is justified by the accomplishment of success in its broadest sense, by many years of devotion to the interests of his community, and by strict fidelity to private and public trusts. Almost continuously since 1891 he has been the incumbent of one or another office of public responsibility, and at no time during this long period has he failed to discharge faithfully and conscientiously every duty devolving upon him. At the present time he is serving his fifth term in the office of mayor, and the history of his incumbency of this office is the history of the growth and development of the city itself.
Mayor Buffington was born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, October 19, 1855, and is a son of Ezekiel and Louisa (Newman) Buffington. The family originated in Germany, from whence they migrated to the new world prior to the Revolutionary war, in which at least one of the family participated as a soldier, although the present style of spelling the name is a derivation from the original one. The grandfather of Mayor Buffington, Jonathan Newman, came to the West with the Cherokees from Tennessee and settled in the territory of Arkansas, being a teacher in the Cherokee schools. He was the first judge elected in Washington County, Arkansas, and succeeded himself for many terms, holding this office for twenty-four continuous years. Ezekiel Buffington, the father of Mayor Buffington, was born in Georgia in 1807, and in 1835 came to the Indian Territory and took up his residence in the Cherokee Nation, where he passed the remainder of his life in agricultural pursuits and died in 1864. He married Louisa Newman, who was born in 1817 in Tennessee and died February 15, 1898, the day of the blowing up of the U. S. S. Maine in Havana harbor. There were four sons and four daughters in the family, all of whom are deceased except Thomas M., the youngest child.
Thomas M. Buffington received his education in the Cherokee Nations schools, and until 1891 was engaged in agricultural pursuits. In that year he was elected district judge of the Delaware District in the Cherokee Nation, an office in which he served for two years, and was then elected a member of the Cherokee Nation Senate, of which distinguished body he was president for two years. His next public honor was his appointment as representative of the Nation at Washington, D. C., where he held several conferences with President Benjamin Harrison during his one-year term, and on his return was elected circuit judge, taking the Northern Circuit of the Cherokee Nation for four years. This was followed by his
election as principal chief of the Nation, an office which he held tor four years, he being the last active chief of that great country, and all abstracts of title to lands since statehood bear his name. He was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention that convened at Denver, Colorado, from the Third Congressional District, and which nominated William Jennings Bryan for the presidency. Under the law of the Cherokee Nation he served twice as mayor of Vinita, held that office twice also under the Arkansas law, and has been elected twice since the attainment of statehood, now serving his fifth term. It is improbable that any man has labored more faithfully and energetically for the best interests of the city and its people. His terms of office have always been characterized by civic improvement and general advancement, and the following is a typical mayoralty proclamation, depicting the enthusiasm, confidence and devotion which have made him one of the most capable and popular officials Craig County has known:
“To the people of Vinita: It is desirable that an electrically lighted fountain worthy of Vinita be erected on Parker plaza where all who pass through Vinita by train or automobile may see it by day or night. We have $150 on deposit but it will take $500 more to get the fountain we want. To the end that this money may be raised surely and quickly and that the fountain may be purchased and erected in time for use this summer, I, T. M. Buffington, mayor of the City of Vinita, do proclaim and ordain that Tuesday, May 18, 1915, from the hour 2 p. m. to 3 p. m. be set aside as a time when all patriotic citizens of Vinita shall bestir themselves to raise this money for this purpose. Let’s sell $500 worth of tickets to the entertainment to be given that night at the Grand theatre to complete the Vinita fountain fund, and let’s do this within one hour to prove to any doubter that Vinita can and will get this fountain. It is my wish that all places of business in the city close for one hour between two and three o’clock on the day named and make this a gala time. Lot this be known ever alter as ’ Vinita Fountain Day.’ The Public Service Company will furnish free electric current for the fountain and the city has water for it. Surely we can install a fountain of which all may be proud, one which will be a monument to our civic pride, a pleasure to those who are here to enjoy it now, and a delight to our posterity. Drawn at the Mayor’s office, City Hall, Vinita, Oklahoma, this 12th day of May, 1915. T. M. Buffington, Mayor of the City of Vinita. Attest: R. D. Cockrell, City Clerk.”
Mayor Buffington has always beeii a staunch democrat in his political views. He has taken an active interest in fraternal affairs, being a thirty-second degree Mason, a member of Vinita Lodge No. 5, A. F. & A. M.; Indian Consistory, McAlester, and Akdar Temple, Ac A. O. N. M. S., at Tulsa; and holding membership also in Vinita Lodge No. 1162, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
On May 10, 1878, Mayor Buffington was married to Miss Susan Woodall, who was born at the Baptist Mission, in the Cherokee Nation, and died November 11, 1891. Mayor Buffington was again married, December 28, 1895, being united with Miss Emma Gray, who was born in North Carolina and brought to Indian Territory by her parents when still a child. Five daughters have been born to Mayor and Mrs. Buffington, namely Lucille, Sue Nell, Maxine, Marie and Marguerite.