Coastal Bend History


Chief William Red Fox

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Posted at 4:12 PM, Jul 03, 2024

Virtually every kid who grew up in Corpus Christi in the 1930’s through the early 1970’s was familiar with the city’s legendary Native American, Chief William Red Fox. For over four decades, Chief Red Fox appeared in area schools, fully dressed in his Native American outfit and elaborate headdress, to educate children on the history and lifestyle of the Plains Indians. His storytelling kept young students spellbound with tales of his adventurous life. His goal was to dispel the myths about “savage Indians” as portrayed on television and in films. He always brought with him numerous items used by his tribal members in their everyday lives. Most compelling were his stories of growing up during the final days of the Indian Wars of the late 1800’s.

William Red Fox was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota on June 11, 1870. His mother, White Swan, was the sister of the great Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. According to Red Fox, he was near the “Battle of the Little BigHorn” as a six year old, watching as his Uncle and hundreds of Sioux warriors annihilated Gen. Custer’s 7th Cavalry. The battle took place in June of 1876. In his youth, he was sent to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania where he acquired the given name William. After the Indian Wars ended in 1890, William Red Fox would travel the world with “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show”, re-enacting famous battles from those wars. When those tours with Buffalo Bill ended in 1910, Red Fox went to Hollywood. He would appear in over 100 “Western” movies, most of them silent, portraying an Indian warrior. After his movie career, he would move to Corpus Christi in 1932 and begin a 40 year career educating young students in the schools and speaking to civic groups. He also made promotional appearances at HEB, Bonham’s, Penny’s, Lichtenstein’s, and others.

In 1971, at the age of 101, Chief Red Fox shot to national fame with publication of his book, “The Memoirs of Chief Red Fox”. The book was an instant hit, making it onto the New York Times “Best Sellers” list. The book and the Chief caught the attention of talk show legend, Johnny Carson, who invited Red Fox to appear on his Tonight Show. He would make five appearances on the Tonight Show and would become a fan favorite. He also made appearances on the Today Show, David Frost, and Dick Cavett. Despite the skepticism of some who questioned the authenticity of the Chief, William Red Fox was a leading authority on Native American life who spent a lifetime educating and entertaining generations of young people. He passed away in Corpus Christi on March 1, 1976, just short of his 106th birthday. He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Robert Parks is a special contributor to KRIS 6 News. Parks was a history teacher at Carroll High School for 19 years and is now retired. His knowledge of Corpus Christi history makes him a unique expert in the subject.