Historian shares Augustan Archibald Butt's connection to Titanic

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 3:49 PM
Last updated 11:30 PM
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This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, and Augusta is already celebrating the life of its closest connection to the tragedy: Maj. Archibald Butt.

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Historian Russell K. Brown answers questions after his presentation at the Augusta Museum of History about Maj. Archibald Butt, Augusta's closest connection to the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Historian Russell K. Brown answers questions after his presentation at the Augusta Museum of History about Maj. Archibald Butt, Augusta's closest connection to the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago.

Butt was born in Augusta in 1865 and became an aide to presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. He was returning aboard the Titanic from a six-week journey in Europe when the ship hit an iceberg April 15, 1912, and sank about 700 nautical miles east of Nova Scotia.

On Wednesday, historian Russell K. Brown gave a lecture at the Augusta Museum of History about the life of Butt, who was born to a grocer living on Reynolds Street. Butt started as a newspaper reporter, but a correspondent position in Washington, D.C., led him to become an assistant to the ambassador to Mexico.

Military service followed in the Philippines and Cuba in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War until he was tapped by Roosevelt in 1908 to become his military aide. Butt stayed in that position with Taft, whom he accompanied to baseball games and even a round of golf in Augusta at the Bon Air course.

“He got along famously with both presidents,” Brown said.

Officially, Butt’s mission to Europe was to deliver a word of thanks from Taft to Pope Pius X for three new cardinals. But the trip to Italy was also a chance to relieve some stress caused by the looming split in the Republican Party and Butt’s now-divided allegiance to both presidents.

When the Titanic began to sink, witnesses said Butt helped calm the panicked evacuation. He was among the roughly 1,500 people who died in the disaster.

Two years after his death, the Butt Memorial Bridge over the Augusta Canal at 15th Street was dedicated in his memory, the only Titanic memorial in Georgia.

The Augusta Canal National Heritage Area will hold two tours along the canal this weekend in Butt’s memory. They begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Augusta Canal Interpretive Center at Enterprise Mill, 1450 Greene St. The cost is $2 per person.

COMING SUNDAY

Augusta’s native son Archie Butt is the city’s strongest connection to the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy. Research shows the presidential aide’s calm and poise as the Titanic sank was keeping in character with a lifetime of service to his country.

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Austin Rhodes
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Austin Rhodes 04/11/12 - 05:36 pm
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It has been reported that the

It has been reported that the small role played in the recent Titanic movie by Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay on "Bewitched") is loosely based on Maj. Butt. Not sure why they did not just call his character that in the movie...John Jacob Astor and Molly Brown certainly showed up...

TrukinRanger
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TrukinRanger 04/11/12 - 08:31 pm
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Wonder why this article
Unpublished

Wonder why this article doesn't mention the rest of the story concerning this awesome man? Well worth the read!!

http://www.thedaily.com/page/2012/03/20/032012-opinions-history-butt-dav...

George Behe
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George Behe 04/11/12 - 08:43 pm
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In case anyone is interested,

In case anyone is interested, my three-volume, 2,400-page biography of Archie Butt was published in 2010 by Lulu.com. It is titled "Archie: The Life of Major Archibald Butt from Georgia to the Titanic."

Coleyom
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Coleyom 04/11/12 - 08:48 pm
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And the think that he was

And the think that he was most notable and heroic local GAY man is really something too! http://www.thedaily.com/page/2012/03/20/032012-opinions-history-butt-dav...

TrukinRanger
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TrukinRanger 04/11/12 - 08:53 pm
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wow- you got the link
Unpublished

wow- you got the link through. My comment (and the link to the daily) never surfaced.

George Behe
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George Behe 04/11/12 - 09:00 pm
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Unfortunately, despite those

Unfortunately, despite those recent allegations, there is not the slightest bit of historical evidence to support the notion that Major Butt was a homosexual. All allegations to that effect are based solely on stereotypes instead of hard evidence.

Herenow2say
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Herenow2say 04/11/12 - 10:07 pm
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I am sure flamboyant men that

I am sure flamboyant men that lived with effeminate artists, never married and spent a lot of time at the theater were straight as arrows.

George Behe
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George Behe 04/12/12 - 06:35 am
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Two straight men were living

Two straight men were living in Archie's home at the same time Millet was living there, and the main reason Archie attended the theater so often was because he accompanied President Taft when the latter did so. Archie fell in love with at least two girls during his life and would gladly have married either one of them, but one girl's mother wanted her daughter to marry George Vanderbilt, and the other girl simply didn't love Archie and broke his heart when she married someone else. In short, the "evidence" you've quoted means very little unless you can support your argument with actual documentation instead of mere stereotypes.

TrukinRanger
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TrukinRanger 04/12/12 - 06:54 am
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Perhaps you should do more
Unpublished

Perhaps you should do more research. There was a fountain erected near the white house in the ellipse that was named the Millet-Butt Memorial Fountain in memory of Frances Millet and Archibald Butt. They were on the titanic together- Archibald boarded in England and Frances in France.

Dr. Douglas B. Willingham
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Dr. Douglas B. Willingham 04/12/12 - 08:23 am
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There is a saying, "Nothing

There is a saying, "Nothing is as interesting as one's sex life, nor should be as boring as someone else's". However, it is human nature to be interested. As a distant cousin of Archie, as well as an almost life-time student of his amazing story, I might be able to shed a little light on the subject. Among his private papers is a reference to his "having his way" with a young, unnamed lady. Additionally, there is absolutely no evidence that he was gay, apart from the all-too-easy stereotypes. His job from 1908 until his death was extraordinarily demanding. He was essentially on call 24-7. His predecessor at the White House left his position in part to get married. We will never know for sure, but it's unfortunate that Archie cannot defend himself on this score while a irrelevant cloud such as this is placed over his important, historical legacy.

Elmer Fudd Gantry
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Elmer Fudd Gantry 04/12/12 - 10:16 am
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The man apparently died a

The man apparently died a hero. Is his sexual orientation really relevant now....??

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 04/12/12 - 02:01 pm
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One important fact has been

One important fact has been omitted here, one that almost certainly was an essential influence on this man of heroic character and public service; indeed, few experiences could have equipped him better for the life he led and the death he died:

Archibald Butt was a graduate of the University of the South, Sewanee.

Dr. Douglas B. Willingham
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Dr. Douglas B. Willingham 04/12/12 - 03:00 pm
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Thank you, Elmer, for your

Thank you, Elmer, for your comment. It is and should be as simple as that.

And thanks, Fiat, for the information on his beloved school. Did you know that Archie was responsible for bringing Taft to Sewanee on a tour of the South? Taft is still the only sitting U.S. President to have done so.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 04/12/12 - 07:49 pm
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I did not know that, Dr.

I did not know that, Dr. Willingham, but it is no surprise that he would think Sewanee a place fit for and interesting to a sitting US President. (Sadly, only one of the last three in that role would have had the slightest clue about the wonderful place.)

George Behe
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George Behe 04/12/12 - 08:02 pm
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Well said, Elmer, Fiat and

Well said, Elmer, Fiat and Doug. Yes, Archie loved Sewanee, and I hope to visit the university myself one day to see what it was about the place that captured his heart.

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