Willis P. Butler

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Willis Pollard Butler, Sr.​​

Coroner of Caddo Parish in
Shreveport, Louisiana​​
In office
1912​​ – 1961
Preceded by Dr. Arthur A. Herold, Sr. (1882-1970)​​
In office
1962​​ – 1964
Succeeded by Dr. Stuart E. DeLee (1919-2000)
In office
1974 – 1979 ​​

Born November 14, 1927​
Gibsland, Bienville Parish, Louisiana​​
Died ​June 1, 1991 (aged 103)
Hermitage, Davidson County, Tennessee
Resting place Spring Hill Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee
Nationality American​​
Political party Democrat​​
Spouse(s) (1) Anne Dodd Butler (died 1963)​​

(2) Ruth Butler (full name unavailable)

Relations Monroe E. Dodd (brother-in-law)​
Children ​From first marriage:

Lucille Butler ___
Willis Butler, Jr.

Alma mater Vanderbilt University

Columbia University
Cornell University​​

Occupation Physician, Coroner

Willis Pollard Butler, Sr. (January 24, 1888 – June 1, 1991), was the long-serving coroner of Caddo Parish, based in Shreveport, Louisiana, with service from 1912 to 1961 and again from 1962 to 1964, and then 1974 to 1979. In 1963, he described his experiences in a short book, Will Somebody Call the Coroner?[1]


Butler was born in rural Gibsland in Bienville Parish, the second son of Lou P. and Hattie Butler. The Butlers relocated to Shreveport while Willis was a young boy. He obtained his medical degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and then pursued postgraduate studies at Columbia University in New York City and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. As a new M.D., he was employed as a pathologist at Bellevue Hospital in New York, the oldest public hospital in the United States. There he conducted the first of his many autopsies and studied how to treat poisons.[1] His first wife, Anne Perry "Annie" Dodd (1890-1963),[2] a native of Trenton in Gibson County in western Tennessee, was the younger sister of Monroe Elmon Dodd, Sr. (1878-1952), the long-time pastor of First Baptist Church of Shreveport and the founder of the former Dodd College for Girls, of which Governor Jimmie Davis spent a year on the Dodd facult

The couple had a daughter, Lucille, and a son, Willis, Jr. (1918-2008), a 1951 graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans, who came to Hawaii in 1952 and practiced family medicine in Haleiwa, a census-designated place on the island of Oahu.[3]A founder of the Hawaii Committee to End the War in Vietnam, Dr. Butler, Jr., remained at the forefront of anti-war activities during that era and appeared especially informed on foreign policy. Later he questioned American involvement in Central American politics through the group, Physicians for Social Responsibility. He was also an opponent of the development of nuclear weapons.[4]

After Annie's death, Butler remarried a few years later. He and his second wife, Ruth, continued to reside in house in the Broadmoor section of Shreveport, which he and Annie had built in the 1940s. In his last years, he and Ruth also maintained a residence at Hermitage in eastern Davidson County in metropolitan Nashville, Tennessee.[1]

In addition to his work as a medical examiner, Dr. Butler developed a groundbreaking method of treating chemical addiction. If an addict was terminally ill or incurable, he received maintenance doses of morphine. If otherwise healthy, an addict received a weaning dose of morphine in an attempt to stop the addiction. For those cured, Butler required that they be employed, if possible, and procure fresh air and recreation. Those fighting addiction were urged to interact socially with non-users in the community. hey receive a steady diet of fresh air and recreation. Addicts were encouraged to interact socially with non-users in the community.Butler's clinic closed in 1923, but its reputation on how to treat addicts effectively has grown over the decades. According to the later coroner, Dr. George McCormick (1939-2005), Butler was possibly seventy-five years ahead of his time in the treatment of addiction.[5]

Butler's book contains many humorous anecdotes but also frightening stories. He cites missing persons who turn up alive after having been declared dead and racial tensions in the segregated society in which he lived prior to 1964. In his early years, Butler went to work in a horse-and-buggy, made arrests for murders that he investigated, fought lynch mobs at the parish courthouse, and came close to being killed himself on several occasions. Upon his death in Hermitage, Tennessee, at the age of 103, he was the oldest former medical examiner in the world. He was the Caddo Parish coroner for a total of fifty-six nonconsecutive years.[1]

Dr. Butler is interred at Spring Hill Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. The first Mrs. Butler is interred at Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Eric Brock, Introduction to Will Somebody Call the Coroner? (Shreveport: Ritz Publications (Sarah Hudson-Pierce), 1963), pp. 7-10.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ann Butler. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on August 28, 2019.
  3. Dr. Willis P. Butler, Jr.. Vitals.com. Retrieved on August 28, 2019.
  4. Mary Adamski (January 15, 2008). Longtime doctor protested U. S. wars. Honolulu Star Bulletin. Retrieved on August 29, 2019.
  5. Butler, Willis Pollard (1888-1991). Handbook of North Louisiana online. Retrieved on August 28, 2019.