Touched By Greatness is the inspiring story of Charles McGilberry and his triumphant journey to overcome the many adversities he encountered in his life.  His story portrays the Choctaw heart  of a Tvshka (warrior) and lives out the spirit and heritage of a long line of leaders that came from the McCurtain family.  Even through trails, he rose above it all to help his people and community.  This book is a must read for people of all ages and nationalities. 

Gary Batton, Chief

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma


Touched By Greatness tells the moving story of Charles Watson McGilberry, whose perseverance, dedication and devotion to God and family forever changed his life and the lives of everyone with whom he came into contact.  This journey through the life and times of Charles McGilberry provides insight into the strength of character necessary to live a life focused on faith, family and service to others.

Bill Anoatubby, Governor

The Chickasaw Nation


In Touched by Greatness, Wayne and Carolee Maxwell beautifully and skillfully articulated a true rendition of her Grandfather and the struggles of young Indians that many Americans neither understand or care about. I have no doubt that this story will add to that account.

Jefferson Keel, Lt. Governor

Chickasaw Nation


Touched By Greatness presents the beautiful story of the triumph of the Choctaw spirit.  Living in a time when he and other Choctaw youth faced a great deal of adversity, Charles McGilberry kept his faith and hope even when he was in very dark places.  Through this, he was able to fulfill his dream of helping his community period.  This book is recommended reading for anyone interested in Native American boarding schools, social justice, or Choctaw history during the World War I era. 

Ian Thompson, PhD

Tribal Historic Preservation Officer

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma


A remarkable story, lovingly told, about an amazing man and his life's journey.

Douglas Hale, Head of School, Mercersburg Academy, Mercersburg, PA


Wayne and Carolee Maxwell have crafted a heartwarming story which moved me to tears. Here was a young Choctaw boy from far away Oklahoma who was given an opportunity before the First World War to attend the Mercersburg Academy, one of the finest prep schools in the Eastern United States. He faced vast cultural, economic and geographic differences to not only survive but thrive, gaining acceptance to Princeton. And while the War and a sweetheart back home kept him from immediately continuing his Ivy League education, he later used what he had learned at Mercersburg to become a successful Native American educator and loving patriarch.

Stefan Brodsky,

Producer-Director, Denver, CO

Mercersburg, '70


Touched By Greatness is a recently revealed true story of the aspirations, achievements, loneliness, love, honor and service of a young Choctaw Indian who, shortly before WWI, is suddenly immersed and transformed in the cultural milieu of a prestigious Eastern establishment preparatory school. The Wanamaker experiment, a well intended but patronizing effort to bring Charles W. McGilberry and two other native Indians into the hallowed halls of Ivy League America suffered the latent cultural bias of it's own progressive and elitist ideals. Disrupted by War, the experiment faltered. The youths had who had faced the challenge move on. Each would find greatness in his own way.

Charles Watson McGilberry, his Indian Nation and the larger American Nation all sought a modern identity in the promises of the early twentieth century. In the end each traveled a blighted path but one ennobled them by the process. His story begs to be heard.

Tim Osage Rockwell,

Faculty Emeritus, Mercersburg Academy


S. Wayne and Carolee Maxwell are the authors of a most interesting narrative of her Grandfather, Charles Watson McGilberry, one of a few American Indian boys who were on scholarship at Mercersburg for a brief period, 1914-1917.

The Maxwell's have composed of an account of her Grandfather's life, not only as a student but as a tribal leader, a lifelong teacher and a US Army Officer in WWI. She exemplifies that he, as the rest of the Nation, shared a determination and a "coming of age".

Charles Watson McGilberry's life history is a captivating read. Touched By Greatness is fascinating, attracting and hopeful. I suspect it maybe the intend of the authors that he is presented modestly but none-the-less the reader will discover a beloved true hero.

Jay L. Quinn,

Archivist Emeriti, Mercersburg Academy


What is that old saying about every family and individual having their own special story? I don't know if it is true for everyone but if the researchers have the faith and determination of Wayne and Carolee Maxwell, then they will find the blessings of their own family story.

C. Neil Kingsley, The Chickasaw Rancher: The Revised Edition 2001

By: Neil R. Johnson

Edited: C. Neil Kingsley

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