Solomon McCombs, 67, a retired illustrator for the State Department and one of this country's best known traditional Indian painters, died of a stroke Tuesday, at St. John's Hospital in Tusla, Okla., following abdominal surgery.
A Creek Indian and vice chief of the Creek Nation, Mr. McCombs was born in Eufaula, Okla., the son of a Baptist minister. He attended rural school and Bacone College in Muskogee, Okla., where he studied Indian symbols and designs and traditional Indian paint, a centuries-old style that Mr. mcCombs described as incorporating a "flat, two-dimensional style, using symbols and choosing subject matter . . . one knows and loves."
He also studied anatomy at the old Tulsa University's Downtown College and did much research into Indian customs and traditions, particularly those of his own tribe, though he drew freely from all Indian culture for his work.
In a 1962 Washington Post story on an exhibition of Indian paintings at Howard University, which included his work, Mr. McCombs said his fascination with the art of the Creek Indians grew as he listened to his mother speak of the lore and traditions of her people.
His award-winning paintings have been shown at the Corcoran Gallery and Smithsonian Institution here, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Gilchrease Museum in Tulsa, and the Tryon Gallery in London, amother others, and his paintings hang in American embassies in Madrid, Brazil and Monrovia.
Among his awards are the Grand Award in the 24th Annual American Indian Exhibition held in Tulsa in 1969, the Waite Phillips Trophy in 1965 for outstanding contribution to Indian art, the Grand Master's Award at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum at Muskogee, and the American Indian and Eskimo Cultural Foundation Shield Award.
Mr. McCombs settled in the Washington area in 1950. He worked for other federal government agencies before joining the State Department in 1956 as an Illustrative draftsman. He subsequently was promoted to graphics designer and illustrator in the audio-visual services division and was a member of the Foreign Service Reserve corps when he retired in 1973.
In 1954, he traveled to the Middle East, Africa, India and Burma for the State Department's International Educational Exchange Service to talk about his paintings and Indian contributions to culture in the United States.
Mr. McCombs was a founding member in the early 1960s of the American Indian and Eskimo Cultural Foundation.
He and his wife, former Margarita Sauer, also a painter, lived in Arlington before moving to Tulsa in 1964.
Besides his wife, survivors include a sister, Martha McCombs of Bartlesville, Okla.; and four brothers, David, of Dustin, Okla., and Thomas, James and Perry, all of Eufaula.