Archibald Willingham Butt, Sr.

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Archibald Willingham Butt, Sr.

Birthdate: (46)
Birthplace: Augusta, GA, USA
Death: April 14, 1912 (46)
Atlantic Ocean (Died on the Titanic)
Immediate Family:

Son of Joshua Willingham Butt and Pamela Robertson Butt
Father of Archibald Butt, Jr.
Brother of Edward Henkell Butt; Lewis Ford Butt and Mary Annie Butt

Managed by: Private User
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About Archibald Willingham Butt, Sr.

Major Archibald Willingham Butt was the double first cousin of my Great-Grandfather William M Butt. "Archie" was an aide to both President Theodore Roosevelt and President Taft. Oral family history has it that Theodore Roosevelt named one of his sons after him.

In 1912, he took a trip abroad, primarily for rest before the next Presidential primary. He was returning on the Titanic when it struck its famous iceberg, and he died after later documented heroic efforts to save women and children. At the time of his death, he was about to announce his engagement to a Miss Williams of Washington, D.C. Major Butt's former military service was in both the Philippines and Cuba. A journalist at one period in his life, he is the author of several books, including one co-authored with President Taft.

(contributed by Carol Flaherty Megrail)

Archibald Butt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lieutenant Archibald Butt in 1909.Major Archibald Willingham Butt (September 26, 1865 – April 15, 1912) was an influential military aide to U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Before becoming an aide to Roosevelt, Butt had pursued a career in journalism and served in the Spanish-American War. He died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Early life

Archibald Willingham Butt was born in Augusta, Georgia to Joshua Willingham Butt and Pamela Robertson Boggs. He was the grandson (NOTE: This is incorrect. He was the nephew) of General William R. Boggs of the Confederate States Army. The Butt family was prominent in Augusta, but had suffered financially during the American Civil War. His father died when Butt was fourteen years old, and Butt was obliged to go to work to support his mother, sister, and younger brother. Thanks in part to contributions from the pastor of his church, and to his mother, who took a job as the school's librarian, Archibald Butt was able to attend the University of the South in Tennessee, graduating in 1888. He was also initiated as a member to the Delta Tau Delta fraternity during his college years. Butt began a career in journalism with his first position at the Louisville Courier-Journal and thereafter became a reporter in Washington, D.C. covering the Capitol for several Southern newspapers, including The Atlanta Constitution and the Nashville Banner. While Butt was working in Washington he became the first secretary for the American Embassy in Mexico with former Senator Matt Ransom.

Military service

In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Butt joined the army as a lieutenant. He served in the Philippines from 1900 through 1904. While he was in the Philippines, he had a part in founding the Military Order of the Carabao, a tongue-in-cheek spoof military fraternal organization still in operation today. In 1904, he was made Depot Quartermaster of Washington, D.C., where he met then-president Theodore Roosevelt. In 1906 he was sent to Cuba to as part of the pacification force. In 1908, the now Captain Butt was recalled to Washington to serve as chief military aide to President Theodore Roosevelt. (NOTE: Family oral history is that they became such good friends that Teddy Roosevelt named his son "Archie" after him.) When William Howard Taft became President the following year, Butt stayed on in the same capacity. In 1911 Butt was promoted to the rank of Major.

By 1912, Taft's first term was coming to an end and Roosevelt, who had fallen out with Taft, was known to be considering a run against him. Very close to both men and fiercely loyal, Butt was caught in the middle. As his health was deteriorating during this period, his friend Francis Davis Millet asked Taft to give him a leave of absence to recuperate before the presidential primaries began. Taft agreed and ordered Butt to go on vacation.

During his time serving with two presidents, Butt wrote almost daily letters to his sister-in-law Clara, of Augusta, GA. These letters are prized by modern historians as a key source of information on the more private events of these two presidencies, as well as invaluable insights into the respective characters of Roosevelt and Taft.

Aboard the Titanic

In the early spring of 1912 Butt's health took a turn for the worse; urged to rest by both President Taft, he left on a six-week vacation to Europe. He was accompanied for part of his vacation by the American painter Francis Davis Millet. Butt's only known official work during his vacation was a visit with Pope Pius X, during which he delivered to the pontiff a personal message from Taft. Butt booked passage on the RMS Titanic for his return to the United States. He boarded the Titanic at Southampton, UK on April 10, 1912; his friend Millet boarded the ship at Cherbourg, France later that same day. Butt was playing cards on the night of April 14 in the first-class smoking room when the Titanic struck an iceberg.[1] The ship sank at 2:20 AM the next morning.

Major Butt's actions on board the ship while it was sinking are largely unverified, but many accounts of a typically sensationalist nature were published by newspapers after the disaster. According to some accounts, Titanic captain Edward J. Smith informed Butt that the "ship was doomed" and that "lifeboats were being readied." Butt immediately began acting as another officer of the ship, herding women and children into the lifeboats. One account tells of Butt preventing desperate steerage passengers trying to escape. Butt died during the sinking; his remains, if found, were not identified.

Memorial service

As Archibald Butt's remains were not recovered, a cenotaph was erected in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. On May 2, 1912, a memorial service was held in the Butt family home with 1,500 mourners, including President Taft, attending. Taft spoke at the service where he said,

"If Archie could have selected a time to die he would have chosen the one God gave him. His life was spent in self–sacrifice, serving others. His forgetfulness of self had become a part of his nature. Everybody who knew him called him Archie. I couldn't prepare anything in advance to say here. I tried, but couldn't. He was too near me. He was loyal to my predecessor, Mr. Roosevelt, who selected him to be military aide, and to me he had become as a son or a brother."[4]

In 1913 The Millet-Butt Memorial Fountain was constructed near the White House in the Ellipse. In Augusta, Georgia, the Butt Memorial Bridge was dedicated in 1914 by Taft.

The Washington National Cathedral contains a large plaque dedicated to Major Archibald Butt. It can be found on the wall in the Museum Store.

In fiction

Butt appears and plays a significant role in Jack Finney's time travel novel, From Time to Time. In it, Butt was sent to Europe by President Taft and former President Roosevelt in an effort to stave off World War I. In Europe, he apparently gets the necessary assurances to make a European war impossible. However, even when informed of the ship's approaching sinking by the time traveling protagonist, he refuses to save himself and his mission when women and children will perish. His mission fails with his death.


^ Lynch, Don (1993). Titanic: An Illustrated History. Hyperion. ISBN 0-7868-8147-X.

^ Rutman, Sharon and Jay Stevenson (1998). The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Titanic. Alpha Books. ISBN 0-02-862712-1.

^ Lord, Walter (1955). A Night to Remember. Page 78. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-27827-4.

^ "Archibald Willingham Butt: Major, United States Army". Arlington National Cemetery Website. Retrieved on 2005.


Hustak, Alan, Hermann Söldner, Craig Stringer and Geoff Whitfield. "Major Archibald Willingham Butt". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved on 2005.

Further reading

Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., Georgians on the Titanic & On the Titanic: Archie Butt (1994).

Name: Major Archibald Willingham Butt Born: Tuesday 26th September 1865 Age: 46 years Last Residence: in Washington DC United States Occupation: Military 1st Class passenger First Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912 Ticket No. 113050 , £26 11s Cabin No.: B38 Died in the sinking. Body Not Recovered Major Archibald Willingham Butt, 45, was born on 26 September 1865. A resident of Washington DC, USA, Major Butt boarded the Titanic at Southampton with his friend Francis D. Millet. Travelling as a first class passenger (ticket number 113050, £26 11s), Major Butt occupied cabin B-38 . An influential military aide to President William Howard Taft and President Theodore Roosevelt, Archibald Butt was born into a prominent Augusta, Georgia, family. After his graduation in 1888 from the University of the South in Tennessee, Butt began a career in journalism, first writing for the Louisville Courier Journal and later as a reporter in Washington for a group of Southern newspapers. While working in Washington he became secretary of the Mexican Embassy with General "Matt" Ransom, Confederate officer and former United States senator from North Carolina. In 1898 Butt left Mexico to enter the United States army as a lieutenant during the Spanish-American War, and decided to make the military a second career. He served in the Philippines from 1900 to 1906, then in Cuba before becoming military aide to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. Butt's health began to deteriorate in 1912 because of his attempts to remain neutral during the bitter personal quarrel between Roosevelt and Taft. Needing rest, he took six weeks' leave from the White House and sailed for Europe with his close friend Francis Millet, who was en-route to Rome on business at the American Academy which he directed. They were returning to Washington on the Titanic . Following the disaster rumours circulated that Marie Grice Young had conversed with Major Butt during the sinking and she was forced the write to the president to set the record straight. After their deaths the Millet-Butt Memorial Fountain was erected to their memory in Washington, DC.
 "Courtesy of The Titanic Project - Richard Eric Kuhlmey Dickinson"
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Archibald Willingham Butt, Sr.'s Timeline

September 26, 1865
Augusta, GA, USA
April 26, 1910
Age 44
Augusta, GA, USA
April 14, 1912
Age 46
Atlantic Ocean