Former Seminole Tribe leader who built Hard Rock into worldwide brand dies from COVID
Max Osceola Jr., a longtime leader of the Seminole tribe who turned the tribe into one of the most successful entertainment companies in the world by building the Seminole Hard Rock hotel, coffee shop and casino brand, died Thursday night at the Cleveland Clinic the consequences of COVID-19.
He was 70 years old.
He had been in the hospital for several weeks and was being treated for the virus.
Osceola was a member of the Seminole Tribal Council for more than two decades, representing the Hollywood Seminole Reservation. From 1985 to 2010 he was re-elected for 13 consecutive two-year terms.
"He was a member of the Seminole Tribal Council, the five-member elected governing body of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, during a period of great expansion for Seminole Gaming, which has become one of the most successful gaming companies in the world," the company said in a statement from the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
During his tenure as councilor, the Seminole tribe acquired Hard Rock International, which was founded by two Londoners in 1971 and plastered rock and roll memorabilia in all its cafes.
The tribe bought the company in 2007. Over the next 13 years, the tribe expanded the business and now operates cafes, hotels and casinos in 74 countries.
Chris Osceola, the current Tribal Council representative for the Hollywood Seminole Reservation and unrelated to Max, said in a statement that Max was "a modern warrior and a true legend among his people and many others around the world".
"He will forever be embedded in our hearts and the history of the Seminole tribe," said Chris. “He was my friend and mentor and I will miss him very much. It was an honor to call him my friend. My sincere condolences to his family and my sincere gratitude for sharing him with us. "
Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner told Sun-Sentinel, “He was absolutely focused on overseeing the development of the Seminole casinos.
Osceola also worked with several non-profit organizations including the Boys and Girls Clubs, Ann Storck Center, Winterfest, Victory Junction Camp, and Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America.
He was born in Hollywood in August 1950 and grew up on the Hollywood Seminole Reservation. He graduated from McArthur High School in Hollywood and attended the University of Tampa. He then moved to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, where he won a national college football championship with his team, according to the Seminole Tribe.
Later in life, Osceola was inducted into the Broward Education Foundation Hall of Fame in 2017.
Osceola is survived by his wife Marge, sons Max Osceola III and Jeff Pelage, and daughters Melissa Osceola DeMayo and Meaghan Osceola. He is also survived by several sisters and brothers, grandchildren and extended families.
His funeral services will be private and a "Celebration of Life" will take place at a later unannounced time. The Osceola family has requested that those who wish to honor Max make a donation to the Max Osceola Memorial Scholarship Fund at the American Indian Graduate Center, the Native American Scholarship Center, at www.aigcs.org.
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