Cherokees Honor Fort Smith Architect


When Fort Smith architect James R. Childers attended the dedication ceremony for the Redbird Smith Health Center, he remembers wondering why he didn’t design “this beautiful clinic” in Sallisaw.


“I thought, ‘I should have done that clinic.’ How come I didn’t know about it, for two reasons, one, basically 90 percent of my work was health-care work and, secondly, I was a tribal member,” Childers said. “How could I be ignorant to the fact they (the Cherokee Nation) were building their health system and starting this clinic.”


The Redbird Smith Clinic was the first tribal health clinic to be constructed “from the ground up” under Cherokee Nation management, according to the tribe’s website.


From that point on, Childers, 60, began pursuing tribal health-care work and designed the nation’s second clinic, the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell, which opened in 1994.


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Southwest Times Record / By Jeff Arnold

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