George C. Butte

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George Charles Butte
George C. Butte (Philippines Governor).jpg
Born(1877-05-09)May 9, 1877
DiedJanuary 18, 1940(1940-01-18) (aged 62)
Residence(1) Dublin, Erath County

(2) Muskogee, Oklahoma
(3) Austin, Texas

(4) Manila, Philippine Islands
Alma materAustin College

University of Texas at Austin
University of Berlin
University of Heidelberg

École de Droit
OccupationJurist; Educator
Political partyRepublican gubernatorial nominee in Texas, 1924
Spouse(s)(1) Bertha Lattimore Butte (married 1898-1926, her death)

(2) Mary Briux Butte (divorced 1933)

(3) Angela Montenegro Butte (wife at time of his death)
ChildrenAll from first marriage:

Felix Butte
George Mitchell Butte
Woodfin Lee Butte
Catherine Butte

Pauline Butte
Parent(s)Charles Felix and Lena Clara Stoes Butte

George Charles Butte (May 9, 1877 – January 18, 1940) was a jurist, educator, and Republican politician from the U.S. state of Texas, who was his party's gubernatorial nominee in 1924 against the controversial Democrat Miriam Wallace "Ma" Ferguson, the first woman elected as governor in the United States. Subsequently, U.S. President Herbert Hoover appointed Butte as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands, a position which he held from July 1, 1932, until February 1, 1936.[1]

Early years, education, military[edit]

Butte was born in San Francisco, California, to Charles Felix Butte and the former Lena Clara Stoes. When he was nine years old, Butte's family moved to Hunt County, east of Dallas, Texas, where he was reared on a farm near Commerce and attended public schools.[2]

In 1895, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Austin College in Sherman. He moved to Dublin in Erath County near Stephenville, where on August 21, 1898, he married the former Bertha Lattimore (November 23, 1878–July 13, 1926). Thereafter, he received another bachelor's degree and in 1904 a Master of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. He received a Master of Arts from UT in 1904. He studied at the University of Berlin in Berlin, Germany from 1911–1912, and received a degree in jurisprudence from the University of Heidelberg in Germany in 1913. He also studied at the École de Droit in Paris, France. Butte was admitted to the Texas bar in 1903, the Oklahoma bar in 1904, and the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1907.[1]

From 1904-1911, Butte practiced law in Muskogee, Oklahoma, when he left the practice to travel and study in Europe. During World War I, Butte was chief of the Foreign Intelligence Section of the General Staff of the U.S. Army, based in Washington, D.C., with the rank of captain and then major. On his return to Texas in 1919,[3] Butte was asked by Democratic Governor William P. Hobby, Sr., who had succeeded James E. Ferguson in 1917, to head a commission to draft public-utility laws.[2]

Gubernatorial campaign[edit]

From 1914-1917, Butte was a UT law professor and led the university's opposition to then Governor James Ferguson, who line-item vetoed the UT appropriation bill in 1917, a procedure by which a governor can strike out selected spending but keep other items in the bill intact. On Texas Independence Day, March 2, 1917, Butte delivered the address "Academic Freedom" or "In the Spirit of 1836" to reply to Ferguson's repudiation of the UT spending bill.[3] Soon Ferguson was impeached by the Texas House of Representatives, convicted by the state senate, and removed from office and thereafter ineligible to serve in a position of public trust.

Butte was thereafter the UT law school dean from 1923–1924, when he stepped down to run for governor against Mrs. Ferguson, Jim Ferguson's stand-in candidate, to succeed the retiring Democrat Pat Neff of Waco. Butte polled ten times the votes of the party's 1922 nominee against Neff and is believed to have received a large vote from women, who first cast ballots in Texas in 1920 under the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Among those who supported Butte were dissident Democrats, Ku Klux Klansmen, opponents of the Fergusons, and the small element of Republican voters at the time.[2] Butte also won the support of the former Houston Post, then called the Houston Post-Dispatch and its owners, former Governor William Hobby and future Governor Ross Sterling, who was unseated in the 1932 Democratic primary by Miriam Ferguson. [4]

In the 1924 general election, Butte received 294,920 votes (41.1 percent) to Ferguson's 422,568 (58.9 percent). His strong showing for a Republican at that time required the GOP to hold a gubernatorial primary in 1926, its first ever in Texas. Fewer than fifteen thousand voted in that contest, easily won by H.H. Haines of Galveston, who was then crushed, 88-12 percent, by the Democratic nominee, Dan Moody, the Texas Attorney General, who had denied Mrs. Ferguson renomination in the summer primary runoff.[5]

Butte again won the Republican gubernatorial primary in 1930 but withdrew in favor of William E. Talbot, who was then defeated by Ross Sterling. In 1932, Sterling was unseated by Mrs. Ferguson, who then repelled a stronger-than-usual Republican challenge from Orville Bullington, an attorney from Wichita Falls.[6]

Later service[edit]

Swearing in of G.C. Butte as Atty. Gen. of Puerto Rico, 1925

In 1925, after his gubernatorial defeat, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Butte as Attorney General of Puerto Rico. He was thereafter vice-chairman of the Puerto Rican Public Service Commission and served as acting governor of the island three times from 1926-1927.[2] In 1928, he was named special assistant to United States Attorney General John G. Sargent. He was named vice governor of the Philippines on December 30, 1930 and was acting governor during 1931-1932[2] and secretary of public instruction of the Philippines prior to his appointment to the insular Supreme Court, which he held until 1936.[1] At that time, the Texas Railroad Commission, a regulatory body under chairman Ernest O. Thompson of Amarillo, invited Butte to devise regulations for petroleum and natural gas conservation in Texas.[2]

Personal life[edit]

George and Bertha Butte had five children, including sons Felix Butte, George Mitchell Butte (1903–1992) and Woodfin Lee Butte (November 1, 1908–September 19, 1981) and daughters Catherine Butte Jones (Married to Perry Lester Jones, Austin, Texas) and Pauline Butte, married name not given. After Bertha's death, Butte at some time thereafter married the former Mary Briux, from whom he was divorced in 1933.[7] Butte's third wife, the former Angela Montenegro, who was Filipino, survived him but had died by 1974.[1][8] Butte died at the age of sixty-two at the American Hospital in Mexico City after undergoing surgery for an intestinal blockage.[9]

Butte was a Baptist and a member of the Masonic lodge. He was affiliated with the American Society of International Law, the American Law Institute, Alpha Tau Omega, and Delta Theta Phi. He was an honorary life member of the Texas state bar and in 1928 was named the honorary president of the Puerto Rican bar association. In 1913, he published Great Britain and the Panama Canal and Amerikanische Prisengerichtsbarketi. Butte was internationally known as an expert on colonial administration and international law.[2]

Woodfin Butte followed his father in a legal career, having received his degree from the Yale Law School. Woodfin Butte was a UT law professor, with expertise in civil, comparative and international law, the law of the sea, and the legal systems of Latin America. He was previously an attorney for Standard Oil based in London, England. He died at the age of seventy-two while on a trip to Alaska.[10]

Butte is interred at Live Oak Cemetery in Dublin, Texas, beside his first wife Bertha and son, George Butte.[11] Butte's papers are housed at the University of Texas Archives in Austin.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d "Memorabilia Room, Associate Justices' List". Archived from the original on August 15, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "The Handbook of Texas online". Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Aftermath: Academic Freedom or "In the Spirit of 1836" by George C. Butte". Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Norman D. Brown, Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug: Texas Politics, 1921-1928. Google Books. Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  5. ^ Congressional Quarterly Press's Guide to U.S. Elections, Washington, D.C., 2005, pp. 1531, 1597
  6. ^ "Elections of Texas Governors, 1845–2010" (PDF). Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  7. ^ This second marriage is not mentioned in The Handbook of Texas, but the authors refer to the third marriage as the second union.
  8. ^ "The LawPhil Project". Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  9. ^ "George C. Butte, Educator, Jurist; Former Acting Governor of the Philippines and Puerto Rico Dies in Mexico City at 62". The New York Times, January 19, 1940, p. 25. January 19, 1940. Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  10. ^ "In Memoriam: Woodfin L. Butte". Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  11. ^ "Live Oak Cemetery, Dublin, Texas". Retrieved June 8, 2010.
Party political offices
Preceded by
W. H. Atwell
Republican gubernatorial nominee in Texas
Succeeded by
H. H. Haines
Legal offices

{{succession box | before = Herbert P. Coats | title = Attorney General of Puerto Rico | years = 1925–1928 | after = James R. Beverley