Chief of SC’s Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe also serves as family doctor and pastor
What’s the best way to address a man whose been pastor at his hometown church for the past 25 years, is a longtime family physician and chief of one of the state’s largest Native American tribes?
“Servant,” says John Glenn Creel, who has always called Colleton County home. He and his wife, Charlene, still live in a house next to his parents, where a midwife delivered him on Halloween as “Andy Griffith” played on the TV.
As a child, he struggled in math and reading and he even repeated the fourth grade. His goal of becoming a doctor seemed unattainable.
“I just thought it wouldn’t be possible being a minority and a minority in a very rural community,” he says. “We had limited income, limited resources. We’re Native Americans, but we’re not federally recognized. That was a big obstacle.”
As chief of the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe, which numbers 756 members, it’s his goal to achieve that federal recognition, clearing the way to access for federal grants. That money can be used to expand the hours and services provided at the non-profit Four Holes Edisto-Natchez-Kusso Indian Free Clinic he operates, as well as build a new museum and help teach “future generations who we are and to be proud of who we are.”
That’s important, says the father of three.
“I’ve done the best to try and balance things and keep the focus on the family. That’s how it was with my parents. We were always together. Family’s important. So is being in a small community. It’s not the just the family and parents that raise the child, it’s the village or the community. And our communities have always been close-knit.”
Being a self-described “master delegator” helps him manage a full schedule. His mind is in constant motion, even when he gets away for one of his favorite activities — hunting.
“I’m probably the only one that will sit in a deer stand and do continuing medical education questions,” Creel says. “I try to use my time wisely. When I’m sitting, I just can’t sit. I can prepare sermons when I sit in the stand.”
Faith is a constant companion during a life that hasn’t always been easy. The first of their three children, John Charles, was born with spina bifida. Doctors didn’t believe he’d live past the age of 2. “JC” is now 37 and ministers alongside his father. Charlene was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2020.
“Part of this life for Christ is to carry that cross,” Creel says. “I don’t mind carrying the cross, because it’s wonderful. Sometimes you’ll begin to feel the weight of that cross. It’s then that I’ll say, ‘Lord, I need your help.’ And then He gives grace. It’s the touch of his hand that makes the difference.”
Getting to know Glenn Creel
John Glenn Creel
Age: 54 (birthdate 10-30-1967)
Hometown: Cottageville, S.C.
Claim to fame: In 2020, he was elected chief of the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Native American Tribe of South Carolina and, for the past 25 years, he’s served as pastor of Little Rock Holiness Church in Cottageville.
Day job: He’s owner of Walterboro Adult and Pediatric Medicine, where he’s a family medicine physician and mentors students as an associate professor of family medicine for his alma mater, the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Co-Op Affiliation: Creel is a member of the Coastal Electric Co-Op in Walterboro, S.C.
Editor’s Note: A version of this SC Stories profile was featured in the October 2021 issue of South Carolina Living, a magazine that is distributed 11 times a year to more than 1 million South Carolinians by The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina.