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"When I won that world championship and they put me in all these halls of fame, I told them, 'If there's one thing I was proud of, I was a good representative of my Cherokee Nation and I was a good representative of the United States.' I was proud of that." (Audio Interview, 01:54:26.0)

   Joe T. Thornton
Collection image
Joe Thornton at time of interview [9/23/2016]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army; Army
Unit: War Department; Signal Corps
Service Location: Fort Sill, Oklahoma; also: Alexandria, Virginia
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At the time of his interview in 2016, Joe Thornton was a centenarian and the oldest living alumnus of Chilocco Indian Agricultural School in Oklahoma. His interview is vividly illustrated with stories from his childhood growing up Cherokee in Oklahoma in the early 20th century. Additionally, he was a World War II veteran, drafted when he was 27. Laughing about it years later, he said, "I told them, 'I'm the oldest soldier in basic training in the Army'." (Audio Interview, 00:29:45.0) He served stateside in the Army Signal Corps from 1943 until 1945. But Thornton's highest achievements were in the field of archery. By the end of his life, he had won Gold for the United States at the 1961 World Archery Championships in Oslo, Norway and had been inducted into four Halls of Fame for his skill with a bow: the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma State Archery Association Hall of Fame, the Chilocco Indian School Hall of Fame, and the Cherokee Nation Honor Society.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (117 min.)
»Photo Album  (1 photo)
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Cherokee heritage; great-great-grandfather came to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears; parents both spoke fluent Cherokee. (01:49) Schooling at Seneca Indian School and Chilocco Indian School. Living conditions at school. (03:46) Beginning to practice archery at Chilocco; did a little boxing. (02:17)
Beginning of World War II; working in a gunpowder plant; considers joining the Army to make more money, but is drafted instead; basic training. (02:57) Duties as a radio technician during war time; stationed in Virginia. (04:12) Training on an anti-aircraft gun; end of the war. (03:15)
Picking up archery again after the war; winning the World Championship in Norway in 1961. (02:46) Listing all the Championships he participated in; anecdote about the '65 Championship in Sweden; beating his 'nemesis' in the '70 National Championships. (05:15) Serving on the National Archery Association Board of Governors; getting Archery added to the Olympic Games; qualifying for the tryouts, but not making the Olympic team. (01:28)

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  October 26, 2011
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