By Katie Buckner
Philip Agnew, 76, is a man who turns pain into possibilities. It is not the tragedy that Agnew has encountered that makes him a distinguished man, but how he has responded to this hardship.
“These hard life experiences that we get, if used for the positive, can be absolutely incredible,” Agnew said in an interview, “I know where I have been and I know that I am a miracle.”
Philip spent a large portion of his childhood on the Chickasaw reservation in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. It was here that Agnew was named Nashoba Ishkin Okchako or Coyote Blue Eyes. Agnew explains his heritage, half Chickasaw and half Irish, was significant to his life spiritually and physically.
“Coming from two cultures was complicated,” he confessed.
Agnew later attended Texas A&M where he was recruited to play football. As the school’s quarterback, he would be the first member of his family to graduate college. After school he served in the military alongside in his classmates. Agnew held two tours as a second lieutenant officer in the Vietnam War.
By the age of 40, Agnew was president for a large corporation out of Texas.
“I had my shirts custom made,” Agnew said, “the left cuff was made shorter so I could show off my Rolex.”
Agnew experienced a transition away from the corporate world when he found his life consumed by alcohol.
“I used to sit in a park and hate my guts,” says Philip.
Agnew says there was nothing left for him to do but generate hope.
“I call God, Grandfather,” Agnew declares,”I prayed to him ‘Grandfather, I don’t want anything from you – just don’t let me die this way.’”
Wading through a sea of hate and humility, Philip was able to take responsibility and become a recovering alcoholic.
“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose; I was 47 and free,” Agnew says.
The former CEO worked his way into a stable life, mended relationships with his two sons, and eventually found his way to the Big Sky state.
Upon moving to Montana, Agnew joined forces with the Flathead tribe to form Sober Indian Riders, a group of American Indian bikers who promote a clean and sober lifestyle to youth on reservations. Agnew strives to promote education to the kids he encounters.
“All they want is an honest encounter,” Agnew says, describing his conversations with American Indian children, “leadership is what it’s all about.”
His assistance to tribes, specifically the Apache and Navajo people, led to Agnew’s nomination as an elder of the Chickasaw tribe. Coming from nothing, Philip was able to create a new adventure for himself, one that he was passionate about.
Just recently, Agnew exchanged his Harley Road King for a Honda Pilot, to continue his travels around the nation.
Rolex to Reservation: Respected elder is found generating hope for young people
By Katie Buckner