Special Collections of the ODU Libraries

Hugh Lee Butler Papers, 1896-1953 | Special Collections and University Archives

Collection Overview

Title: Hugh Lee Butler Papers, 1896-1953

ID: 00/MG 58

Primary Creator: Butler, Hugh Lee (1871-1946)

Extent: 1.2 Linear Feet. More info below.

Date Acquired: 01/09/1985

Subjects: Butler, Hugh Lee, 1871-1946, City council members--Virginia--Norfolk, Norfolk (Va.)--History--20th century, Norfolk (Va.)--Politics and government--20th century, Race relations--History--20th century

Languages: English


Served on the Norfolk City Council from 1902 to 1938. Papers relate to his service on the Norfolk City Council during the Great Depression and as chairman of Local Draft Board no. 1 during World War I.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Butler Papers deal primarily with his duties on the Norfolk City Council from 1923-1938 as a representative of Brambleton (parking meters; race relations; Foreman Field; city anniversaries; Museum of Arts and Sciences; Blue Laws; study of schools); his service on the Local Draft Board from 1917-1922 (alleged draft evaders, delinquents, deserters); personal and family papers (tax returns, financial records, obituaries, condolences); pamphlets and brochures of Norfolk; clippings from Norfolk newspapers; and, a scrapbook.

Correspondence is arranged chronologically, or in original order as clipped together. Many carbons are on the backs of discarded "Seaboard Air Line Railway, Portsmouth, VA, Passing Report."

Collection Historical Note

Hugh Lee Butler, son of Le Grande Cornelius Butler and Martha Watkins Simpson Butler (d. 1897), was born July 19, 1871 in Farmville, Prince Edward County, Virginia. He had three brothers: Percy H., Hunter C. (d. 1905), and Stanley W. (d. 1923). Butler's parents moved to Norfolk when he was nine years old. He attended public schools in Farmville and Norfolk.

Butler married Effie Lee Grace, at the residence of W. E. Brown. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. J. T. Whitley. They became the parents of one daughter, Alice, and three sons, Hugh Lee Jr., Willard H., and Robert T., all of whom survived him. His wife died on December 17, 1935.

Butler began as an office boy at the Seaboard Air Line Railway on May 12, 1884. Promotion followed promotion over the years. In 1922, he was promoted to the position of contracting freight agent, a position he held until his retirement. On March 19, 1937, he received a congratulatory letter from L. R. Powell and Col. Henry W. Anderson upon completion of 50 years' service to the Seaboard. G. B. Rice presented him a 50- year service medal on behalf of the company. He retired at age 70, the Seaboard being the only company for which he had ever worked.

Butler's political career was a distinguished one. It began on what was known as the Common Council, July 1, 1902, representing Brambleton. His term as a member of the Norfolk City Council expired August 31, 1938, after 36 years of service.

He began his career as a member of the Charter Commission in 1902 and served on that body and the Select Council until the council-city manager form of government became a reality. Then he served as a member of the new government for 20 years. He also served on such committees as: Finance, Fire, Public Improvement and Annexation. He served many times as a member of the Democratic Committee from Brambleton and as chair of the Local Draft Board No. 1 from April 1, 1917 - March 31, 1919. He became especially involved in responding to citizens whose need for municipal services had not been met and civil servants (teachers, municipal workers) whose salaries had been cut during the Depression. Members of the Afro-American community found him to be a champion for their causes. One evidence of his tie to that community was a note from P. B. Young, publisher of the Afro-American Journal and Guide when Butler's wife died. He also worked on such projects as the introduction of parking meters to Norfolk and a study of school needs, both salaries as well as space.

Butler was known as a person of personal integrity, one who was loyal in his support of the city's welfare and one who had a mastery of the city's business. These traits provide a partial explanation as to the length of his political career. His service of 36 years was the longest in Norfolk's modern history. An appraisal of his life was best expressed in a resolution passed by the City Council on February 5, 1946: "That in the death of Hugh L. Butler, the citizens of Norfolk have lost a faithful and conscientious public servant, whose interest in their welfare and efforts in their behalf will long be remembered, and the City has lost a valued citizen of outstanding integrity and fidelity."

Though he retired from public office in 1938, he continued as a public servant. His appointment by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on October 12, 1940, as Secretary to Norfolk City Draft Board No. 4 is just one instance of his service.

He was in demand as a speaker before such organizations as the Ballantine Civic Association and the Ocean View Democratic and Social Club. He was made an honorary member of the Norfolk Athletic Club.

He died at his home on January 28, 1946 following two heart attacks the previous week.

Subject/Index Terms

Butler, Hugh Lee, 1871-1946
City council members--Virginia--Norfolk
Norfolk (Va.)--History--20th century
Norfolk (Va.)--Politics and government--20th century
Race relations--History--20th century

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives

Alternate Extent Statement: 2 Hollinger document cases

Access Restrictions: Open to researchers without restrictions.

Use Restrictions: Questions on literary property rights should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian.

Physical Access Note: All clippings in Folders 16-19 and items in Scrapbook too brittle to consult without destroying them.

Acquisition Source: "Hap" Forrest White

Acquisition Method: Gift. Accession #A85-1

Related Materials: <span style="color: rgb(59, 59, 59); font-family: arial, helvetica, clean, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Note availability on microfilm at Kirn Memorial and Old Dominion University libraries.</span>

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Box [insert number], Folder [insert number and title], Hugh Lee Butler Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library, Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA 23529.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Correspondence],
[Series II: Work Records],
[Series III: Personal Papers],
[Series IV: Pamphlets and Brochures],
[Series V: Clippings],
[Series VI: Scrapbook],

Series I: Correspondence
Sub-Series A: Norfolk City Council and General
Box 1
Folder 1: Councilman duties; Railroad Retirement Act; concerns of Afro-Americans; dedication of Foreman Field; city anniversaries; Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, Mar 10 1923 - Nov 20 1936
Folder 2: Councilman duties; concerns of Afro-Americans; parking meter installation; Crime Prevention Conference; airport survey; 50-year Service Medal from Seaboard Air Line Railway, Nov 21 1936 - Mar 25 1937
Folder 3: Councilman duties; parking meters; Blue Laws; Afro-American concerns, Mar 26 1937 - May 29 1937
Folder 4: Councilman duties; Railroad Retirement Act; parking meters; Norfolk airport; "Union Mission" for Afro-Americans, Jun 1 1937 - Oct 23 1937
Folder 5: Councilman duties; teachers' salaries; Police Dept.; Atlantic Coast Fleet; WPA project, Oct 25 1937 - Mar 28 1938
Folder 6: Councilman duties; Councilman election; Afro-American concerns; political address; WPA project, Apr 1 1938 - Jun 23 1938
Folder 7: Councilman duties; study of high schools; Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences; Hugh Lee Butler's retirement, Jun 28 1938 - Aug 31 1939
Sub-Series B: World War I Draft Board Records
Box 1
Folder 8: Draft Board Records for World War I; cases of alleged draft evaders, delinquents, deserters, Dec 1 1917 - Apr 25 1922
Series II: Work Records
Box 1
Folder 9: Railroad Retirement Act
Series III: Personal Papers
Sub-Series A: General Correspondence
Box 1
Folder 10: Elks Memorial Services; invitations; acknowledgments; rental receipts, Dec 6 1896 - Apr 21 1937
Folder 11: Family items; receipts, including rental receipts, Apr 22 1937 - 1952
Sub-Series B: Financial Records
Box 2
Folder 1: Virginia and Norfolk tax returns for Hugh Lee Butler and Alice B Cruser, 1939-1953
Folder 2: Federal tax returns, 1920-1941
Sub-Series C: Family Obituaries and Condolences
Box 2
Folder 3: Death of brother, Hunter C. Butler, Oct 4 1905; Death of brother, Stanley White Butler, Apr 1923; Death of wife, Effie Lee Grace Butler, Dec 17 1935
Series IV: Pamphlets and Brochures
Box 2
Folder 4: Primary Norfolk and Tidewater Virginia
Series V: Clippings
Box 2
Folder 5: Miscellaneous clippings from the: Public Ledger; Virginia and Pilot; Norfolk Landmark; Virginian-Pilot and the Norfolk Landmark; and, Times-Advocate. Includes 1922 election of Butler et al., picture of Butler; articles on Spanish-American War; and current events.
Folder 5a: Miscellaneous clippings from the: Public Ledger; Virginia and Pilot; Norfolk Landmark; Virginian-Pilot and the Norfolk Landmark; and, Times-Advocate. Includes 1922 election of Butler et al., picture of Butler; articles on Spanish-American War; and current events.
Folder 6: Clippings from Norfolk newspapers. Includes Norfolk City unofficial / official election results (1922-1940); proposed charter change; editorial re. Late Richard W Peatross; Draft Board appointments (including Butler) by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Oct 12 1940.
Folder 7: Clippings from Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Sept 1 1939- Nov 3 1939, re. Beginning and progress of World War I.
Box 3
Folder 1: Clipping from Norfolk newspapers. Include death of Woodrow Wilson; 'Jim Crow' law effective Jun 13 1906.
Folder 2: Clipping from Norfolk Newspapers. Include death of Woodrow Wilson; 'Jim Crow' law effective Jun 13 1906.
Series VI: Scrapbook
Various clippings beginning about Apr 18 1897 from Public Ledger. Include poems; Civil War reports; current events; funeral of sister-in-law, Cassie Grace; deaths of mother, Mrs. Martha A (sic) Butler (1987) and brother, Hunter C Butler (1905).
Box 3
Folder 3: Scrapbook

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Correspondence],
[Series II: Work Records],
[Series III: Personal Papers],
[Series IV: Pamphlets and Brochures],
[Series V: Clippings],
[Series VI: Scrapbook],

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