Butler remembered in two services
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Hundreds gathered in Morgan County last weekend to celebrate the life and work of Commissioner Walter Curtis Butler, Jr., who passed away on August 1 at age 64. Visitors filed through the high school auditorium for three hours last Friday, paying their respects to the family and remembering Butler as a foot soldier for both Christ and the NAACP. “He served so faithfully—he loved his church and he loved his family,” said friend and fellow deacon Joe Bennett of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
“He was a man who put God first.” Butler was the man who filed a successful lawsuit against the county some 30 years ago to end at-large election of county officials and elect representatives by district instead. After the new districts were created, Butler tried to find someone to run for county commissioner; when he couldn’t find anyone else, he ran himself, becoming the first African-American elected to county office in Morgan.
He remained in that seat for 27 years, until his death last week from complications of pneumonia.
Following the memorial service Friday evening, there was a standing-room only crowd for Butler’s Homegoing service at Springfield Baptist Church on Saturday. Butler was a deacon at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, but his services were held at Springfield because of its larger size. “We love Mt. Zion,” said Mt. Zion’s pastor and Homegoing service officiant Reverend Timothy Kindell. “We love Mt. Zion, but we know it’s a small church. But today, even Springfield Baptist may not be big enough,” he said Saturday of the many who came to celebrate Butler’s life. Luminaries from branch and state NAACP conferences all over the southeast were in Morgan County over the weekend to honor Butler, remembering his tireless work for the cause of civil rights in Georgia and the United States during his life.
Many speakers remembered how Butler would attend meetings and rallies on Saturday nights in other cities, then drive through the dark in order to get to Sunday School on time in the morning. “I would say if Curtis could speak tonight that he would say he hoped he left Morgan County a better place than he found it,” said his fellow county commissioner and friend of 20 years Mack Bohlen. Madison City Councilman Michael Naples remembered Butler as a man of faith, hope, and love. “His love and devotion to family was an example…his love of his fellow man is well-documented,” said Naples. Butler was laid to rest Saturday at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.