Billy Yairda Barnett was born on January 28, 1934 to Rhoda (Cato) Barnett and Tony Barnett in Eufaula, Oklahoma. He was Muscogee (Creek) of the Fuswv (Bird) Clan. Bill passed away on February 5, 2021 in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He is preceded in death by a daughter Karen R. Chotkey, his mother Rhoda Barnett, sister Mary Barnett, brother Buster Barnett, sister Stella Lena, and grandson Robert Chotkey. He is survived by wife Mary Jo, son Lincoln Barnett of Seminole, OK, daughters Stephanie Barnett of Yukon, OK, Dr. Jennifer Barnett of Shawnee, OK, and Angela & Lance Couture of McLoud, OK, brother and best friend Jackson Barnett of Eufaula, OK, grandsons Johnathan Chotkey and William Chotkey both of Shawnee, OK, son-in-law Darrell Chotkey of Shawnee, OK, and many nieces and nephews.
Bill graduated from Litchfield High School in Litchfield Park, AZ and then Bacone College. He completed his Bachelors and Masters of Educational Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. He later earned a second Bachelor’s from Oklahoma Baptist. While completing his master’s degree he accepted Christ as his Saviour. When Bill was a child, he and his brother Jackson almost died of a fever; two elderly African American women prayed over them and nursed them to health. They asked God to make one of them a preacher. Bill accepted the call to preach when he was 27 years old, but knew since childhood that God was calling him. Bill completed his doctoral coursework (ABD) at the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque.
Bill was an educator and bi-vocational pastor. He served on the faculty at Bacone College (Dean of Students), Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), Seminole State, and Langston University; at these last institutions, he served as an administrator for the TRIO programs and president of SWASAP. He enjoyed sports and coached basketball, track & field, cross country, and was the first Women’s Basketball Coach for OBU. While in NM, he started the first National All Indian Basketball Tournament (1974) at UNM’s The Pit in Albuquerque, NM; in OK, he conducted all Native American basketball tournaments for 20 plus years, which proffered competition from across the state from children to adults.
Bill was ordained and then served as Asst. Pastor at First Indian Los Angeles. While in CA, Bill published a news magazine “Indians Illustrated,” as well as ran Indian basketball leagues, where he met the avid player Mary Jo. He then pastored First Indian Muskogee OK, Baptist Indian Mission, Albuquerque, NM, and since 1975 served as founding pastor of Indian Nations, in Seminole, Oklahoma. He facilitated MTI classes through OBU where he taught numerous classes, and he taught Muscogee (Creek) language classes. In 2019, he began monthly Mentoring classes for ministers, deacons, and young leaders.
Bill was Director of Indian Falls Creek for 6 years and continued serving in other roles (Chairman and Bible Conference Director) for 40 years. He also served as a consultant for the Choctaw/Chickasaw Family camp. In 1992, he was elected Second Vice President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Bill was also appointed as a Catalytic Missionary by the Home Mission Board in 1995. He also served on the Oklahoma Baptists’ Board of Directors (2014-2020) and the Native American Advisory Team.
In addition, Bill competed in the Oklahoma Senior games, North American Indigenous Games, and the National Senior Games where he earned numerous medals and set records in multiple track and field events in each of his age groups from 55 to 86 years. His 4x100 relay team won Gold in several National meets and set a new meet record at the 2019 Nationals in Albuquerque, NM.
In his down time, Bill was close to completing a translation project of the “Jesus” film into Muscogee (Creek). He had been selected to be in the forthcoming film “Killers of the Flower Moon”. He enjoyed gardening, classical music, classic movies and trivia, playing Scrabble, building ‘things’, writing/creating publications, finding camps to volunteer at, and watching sporting events. He always rooted for the underdog. To the end, he was developing ideas and laying out plans for Indian Nations and ministry projects, including Indian Falls Creek.
Bill served on, developed, and created multiple ministry and educational initiatives, programs, committees, and organizations yet unnamed, and he was always dreaming of new things to do to help, serve, or generate employment for people. He always sought to help, advice, encourage, and mentor others.
Funeral services will be held on Friday, February 12, 2021 at 1:00 PM at First Baptist Church in Seminole, OK. Burial will follow at Fairview Cemetery in Shawnee, OK. Services are under the direction of Swearingen Funeral Home in Seminole, OK.
Family requests those attending adhere to CDC guidelines for safety during this pandemic, wearing masks and social distancing. Expressions of your love and concern are greatly treasured; however, refraining from hugs, handshakes and contact at this time, for everyone's safety, is appreciated.
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