Gene Underwood, full-blood Chickasaw, was born in 1934 near Tishomingo, Oklahoma to parents Joe and Mary Underwood. After graduating from Russett High School in 1956, he went on to attend Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas.
During the relocation program of the 1960s, Gene moved to California. Many Chickasaws relocated looking for jobs and he was reunited here with family and friends from back home. While here, he married wife, Juanita, also from Oklahoma.
Gene enjoyed playing softball and helped initiate an all-Indian softball league in the Bay area. Upon his family’s return to Oklahoma, Gene helped put together the Washita Rebels, an all-Indian softball team and also helped create one of the first Indian softball tournaments in the area.
Gene served three terms as a Chickasaw Tribal Legislator (1983-1992) and was appointed by Governor Anoatubby to serve on the Chickasaw Nation Wildlife Commission. He was also employed at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur, Oklahoma for 23 years, retiring in 1997.
Gene enjoys church, gospel singings, hunting, camping and spending time with his family. He has served as chairman of the Underwood & Hamilton Family Reunion for many years, one of the largest Chickasaw family gatherings conducted each summer along Pennington Creek.
Keeping the Chickasaw culture alive is very important to Gene, so when his son Dennis and brothers Ted and Chet began building an authentic replica of an early 18th century dugout canoe, Gene joined the family project. Together, they burned and carved out the canoe, which is now on display at the Chickasaw Cultural Center.