Dob Brewington and Tom Carter are two names well known throughout Sampson County, especially in the Coharie Tribe. Both men were at one time the tribal chief, a position that was recently filled by the Rev. Wilbert Ammons.
This past weekend, Ammons, who is pushing 94 years of age, performed his sacred duties as the newly elected leader of the Coharie people. Ammons, whose Indian name is Strong Spirit, joins a long line of tribal leaders, but is by far the oldest elected member to the job.
“I felt that’s where they needed me for a while,” Ammons said of his new charge. “I wanted to do some good for our Indian people.”
Despite being the oldest living member of the Coharie Tribe, Ammons keeps busy serving delivering sermons — a job he has held for nearly 65 years.
Serving as Coharie chief isn’t an easy job, especially for someone who has lived nearly 10 decades. Ammons says he doesn’t mind how busy the job will keep him because moving keeps you young.
“When it was time to elect a new chief, I just decided that I wanted to run,” Ammons shared. “I’m proud of who I am and what I am. I always go around bragging on my heritage.”
Ammons grew up in Sampson County as one of 14 children — 10 girls and four boys — of William and Mildred Simmons Ammons. The service of preaching began in 1951 at Holly Grove Free Will Baptist Church. He was ordained three years later.
For 20-plus years, Ammons has served as leader of the Bible Free Will Holiness Conference, headquartered in Clinton, which now includes three churches but was previously triple that. Other than Holly Grove, Bible FWH also includes East Carolina Holiness on U.S. 421 in Clinton, and Mt. Sinai Holiness in Bolton. Ammons pastored all three churches, most recently retiring after 22 years at Mt. Sinai.
In his pocket, Ammons carries around a unique business card that offers his many services. He says he is always available for coffee or a little piece of advice. All someone has to do is ask.
He still preaches “anywhere I can,” delivering sermons at churches in Pinehurst, Maxton and back at East Carolina in Clinton. While sometimes he gets someone to drive him on Sunday, Ammons still insists “I can drive better now than I ever called.” In fact, Ammons often offers rides for the seniors of the tribe when they need to go somewhere.
During his term as chief, Ammons says he has plans to help his Coharie people.
“We are going to work together as one band and accomplish whatever we can,” Ammons concluded.
Ammons and his tribe celebrated the 47th annual Pow Wow this past weekend. Friday and Saturday events included traditional Native American dancing, drumming, food and vendors with handmade crafts. For his first official duty as chief, Ammons blessed the tribal grounds before Friday’s ceremonies began.
The annual Warriors Ride took motorists on an 80 mile trip through Sampson County Saturday morning, followed by a health fair and a Native American bone marrow drive.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.