Philip H. Viles, Jr. served on the Judicial Appeals Tribunal continuously from December 4, 1976 to August 15, 2002. His almost 16 years as Chief Justice is believed to be the longest such tenure in recorded Cherokee history. During that time, he sat with the Supreme Court of Georgia to hear two cases in September, 1993 and had private meetings with three U.S. Supreme Court Justices in October, 1994. In early 1997, Viles and his two colleagues met privately with U.S. Chief Justice Rehnquist to discuss Cherokee Nation courts.
He also served the Cherokee Nation as board chair of Cherokee Nation Industries, Inc. and as a commissioner of the Housing Authority of Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
Viles holds a degree in economics and graduate degrees in law, business administration, and library and information studies. His writings include five essays (four on Cherokees; Jim Thorpe was the other) written for Notable Native Americans (1994) and five essays for the twenty-volume work American National Biography (1998), published by Oxford University Press. He has written one book (on statues in the U.S. Capitol) and wrote the foreword for The Brainerd Journal : A Mission to the Cherokees, 1817‑1823, University of Nebraska Press, published fall 1998. Viles appeared live on C-SPAN seven times to discuss the statues in Washington and was frequently asked about the Cherokee Nation.
His interest in Cherokee culture led him to be Presenter (tour leader and commentator) for a “Day with Willard Stone”, the noted Cherokee wood sculptor, in 1996. The tour was co-sponsored by Gilcrease Museum and by Rogers University. Viles is a life member and active supporter of the Cherokee National Historical Society.
From 2002 until his retirement in 2013, he worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. in both the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians and the Office of Indian Energy & Economic Development. Since 2014, he has been an adjunct professor for the University of Tulsa College of Law, teaching “Finance and Accounting in Native American Businesses” and “Economic Development in Indian Country”.
Viles is the grandson of J. Bartley Milam, Principal Chief of the Cherokees from 1941 until his death in May, 1949. Viles is also a descendant of Judge John Martin (1781-1840), who served as the first Chief Justice and first Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation after removal.