George C. Butte

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George Charles Butte​

(Jurist and educator; the 1924 Texas Republican gubernatorial nominee)

George C Butte.jpg

Born May 9, 1877​
San Francisco, California,
Died January 18, 1940 (aged 62)
Mexico City, Mexico

Resting place:
Live Oak Cemetery in Dublin, Texas
(1) Dublin, Erath County, Texas
​ (2) Muskogee, Oklahoma
​ (3) Austin, Texas
​ (4) Manila, the Philippines

Spouse (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)​
All from first marriage:
​ Dr. Felix Lattimore Butte
​ George Mitchell Butte
​ Woodfin Lee Butte
​ Catherine Mildred Butte Jones
​ Sarah Pauline Butte​ Dawson Zachry
Charles Felix and Lena Clara Stoes Butte
Alma mater:
Austin College, Sherman, Texas
University of Texas at Austin
​ University of Berlin
​ University of Heidelberg

Religion Baptist

George Charles Butte (May 9, 1877 – January 18, 1940) was an attorney, judge, educator, and Republican politician from Texas, who was his party's gubernatorial nominee in 1924 against the controversial Democrat Miriam Wallace "Ma" Ferguson (1875-1961), one of the first two women governors in the United States.​

U.S. President Herbert Hoover appointed Butte as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands, when that country was under American rule. Butte held the judgeship from July 1, 1932, until February 1, 1936.[1]


​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, Butte received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He moved to Dublin in Erath County near Stephenville, where on August 21, 1898, he married the former Bertha Lattimore (1878-1926). Thereafter, he received another bachelor's degree and in 1904 a Master of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. He studied at the University of Berlin in Berlin, Germany from 1911 to 1912, and in 1913 received a degree in jurisprudence from the University of Heidelberg, also in Germany. 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 United States Supreme Court in 1907.[1]

From 1904 to 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 United States 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 Pettus Hobby, Sr. (1878-1964), who in 1917 had succeeded James Edward Ferguson, Jr. (1871-1944), to head a commission to draft public-utility laws.[2]

Gubernatorial campaign

​ From 1914 to 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 again in a position of public trust.

Butte was thereafter the UT law school dean from 1923 to 1924, when he stepped down to run for governor against Mrs. Ferguson, Jim Ferguson's stand-in candidate, to succeed the retiring Democrat Pat Morris Neff (1871-1952) 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 core 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 S. 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, Daniel James "Dan" Moody, Jr. (1893-1966), the state 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

In 1925, after his gubernatorial defeat, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Butte as the attorney general of the Commonwealth 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 to 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 from 1931 to 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

George and Bertha Butte had five children, including sons Dr. Felix Lattimore Butte (1901-1962), George Mitchell Butte (1903–1992) and Woodfin Lee Butte (1908-1981) and daughters Catherine Butte Jones (1913-1997), the wife of Perry Lester Jones of Austin), and Sarah Pauline Butte Dawson Zachry (1917-1998).[7]

After Bertha's death, Butte at some time thereafter married the former Mary Briux, from whom he was divorced in 1933.[8] Butte's third wife, the former Angela Montenegro, who was Filipino, survived him but had died by 1974.[1][9]

Butte died at the age of sixty-two at the American Hospital in Mexico City after undergoing surgery for an intestinal blockage.[10]

Butte was a Baptist and a member of the Masonic lodge, 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. 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 University Law School in New Haven, Connecticut. He 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.[11]

Butte is interred at Live Oak Cemetery in Dublin, Texas, beside his first wife Bertha and son, George.[12] His papers are housed at the University of Texas Archives in Austin.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Memorabilia Room, Associate Justices' List. Retrieved on June 8, 2010; no longer on-line.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Butte, George Charles. Retrieved on December 14, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 George C. Butte. Aftermath: "Academic Freedom" or "In the Spirit of 1836". Retrieved on December 14, 2019.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Norman D. Brown, Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug: Texas Politics, 1921-1928, ( College Station: Texas A&M Southwestern Studies, February 1, 1984), accessed December 14, 2019.
  5. Congressional Quarterly Press's Guide to U.S. Elections, (Washington, D.C., 2005), pp. 1531, 1597.
  6. Elections of Texas Governors, 1845–2006. Retrieved on June 11, 2010; apparently no longer on-line.
  7. George Charles Butte. Retrieved on December 14, 2019.
  8. This second marriage is not mentioned in The Handbook of Texas, but the authors refer to the third marriage as the second union.
  9. The LawPhil Project. Retrieved on December 14, 2019.
  10. 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). Retrieved on December 14, 2019.
  11. In Memoriam: Woodfin L. Butte. Retrieved on June 8, 2010; no longer on-line.
  12. Live Oak Cemetery, Dublin, Texas. Retrieved on December 14, 2019.

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