This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.
|Size||100.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 90000 items)|
|Abstract||Algernon Lee Butler, attorney in Sampson County, N.C., 1931-1959; active member of the Republican Party; and U.S. District Judge for Eastern North Carolina, 1959-1978. Judicial files, correspondence, and other material of Algernon Lee Butler. Pre-judicial Papers, 1928-1959, include political correspondence and printed material, mostly related to Republican Party business; legal correspondence, briefs, and transcripts; correspondence and printed material regarding Butler's duties for the Clinton city schools and Sampson County government; a wide variety of writings and speeches that Butler produced on political, educational, and civic topics; and limited personal correspondence. Judicial Papers, 1959-1978, include case files, handwritten notes, legal briefs and orders, correspondence, copies of opinions, clippings, and other papers. Materials relating to school desegregation cases, civil rights cases, and the case of Jeffrey MacDonald are included.|
|Creator||Butler, Algernon Lee, 1905-1978.|
The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.
Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.
Algernon Lee Butler was born on 2 August 1905 in Clinton, Sampson County, N.C. The son of George Butler and Eva Lee, Algernon had two brothers, Edwin and Mossette, and one sister, Francis. George Butler and his brother Marion were both attorneys and were extremely active in the political life of North Carolina for many years. In fact, Marion Butler would become one of the founders of the Populist Party and a United States Senator from North Carolina at the turn of the century. Given this heritage, it is not surprising that Algernon Butler's life would be a mix of politics and law.
Algernon attended the Clinton public schools and worked during the summers in his father's law office. Naturally, Butler could "never recall having any question or doubt as to what I would do." He went to Trinity College (now Duke University) in 1924 but soon transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study law. During his college days Algernon was associate editor of the Law Review and president of the campus Republican club.
In 1928, Algernon had completed his studies and was admitted to the bar. Joining his father's law firm that same year, he plunged into both a law practice and a political life, acting as campaign manager for his father's U.S. Senate bid in 1930 and traveling the state extensively to speak for his father. The next year he launched his own political career when he was elected to the North Carolina State House of Representatives from Sampson County. In 1932 he founded and became the state chairman of the Young Republicans of North Carolina and was a candidate for the post of Superintendent of Public Instruction for North Carolina. While the latter post eluded him, Butler did retain a life-long interest in public education and was the attorney for the Clinton School Board for some twenty years beginning in 1939.
In 1935, Butler met and married Josephine Birdwell of Clinton. The couple had three children, Algernon Jr., George, and Eva.
In the ensuing years, Algernon Butler combined a successful law practice with a continuing interest in Republican politics. He was a delegate to Republican National Conventions in 1936, 1940, and 1948 and was a member of the Republican State Executive Committee from 1942 to 1959, serving as assistant chairman from 1946 to 1950. Algernon also served as county attorney for Sampson County from 1939 to 1951 and offered himself as a candidate for the position of associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1944 and 1952. He was unsuccessful in both races but, realizing that the chances of a Republican winning were slim, he took the losses with good grace.
In addition to his political activities during these years, Butler was active in other aspects of civic life. He served as president of the Clinton Rotary Club in 1936; president of the Sixth District Bar Association in 1953; and president of the Sampson County Bar in 1958.
In 1959, Butler was appointed by President Eisenhower to the Federal bench for the Eastern District of North Carolina, serving as chief judge from 1961 to 1975. He was senior judge from 1975 until his death.
During his tenure on the bench, Algernon Butler became most widely known for his involvement in a variety of decisions which served to desegregate North Carolina's public schools. In this vein, he presided over the first steps to desegregate schools in Raleigh and, in 1969, he ordered that it was the state's duty actively to promote desegregation. His orders for school busing in Wilmington and New Hanover County in 1971 touched off a storm of protest which frequently erupted into violence. He was also involved in several of the appeals of convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald. Butler also instituted a policy of merit hiring and firing for all judicial personnel.
During his later years Algernon Butler suffered from a variety of heart ailments and wore a pacemaker. On 5 September 1978, he suffered a heart attack and died in Raleigh, North Carolina. His colleagues would eulogize him as a "Judge's Judge".
(Biographical data obtained from the papers themselves, a variety of biographical reference works, and the clipping files of the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.)Back to Top
The Algernon Butler Papers were received in several segments, and the arrangement reflects this division. Subgroup 1 consists of Butler's political, legal, and personal papers from 1928 until he assumed his judgeship in 1959. Included are political correspondence and printed material; legal correspondence, briefs, and transcripts; correspondence and printed material regarding Butler's duties for the Clinton city schools and Sampson County government; and a wide variety of writings and speeches Butler produced on political, educational, and civic topics. Throughout the Butler papers there is very little personal correspondence.
Subgroup 2 consists of papers relating to Judge Butler's judicial career. Included here are case files, handwritten notes, legal briefs and orders, correspondence, copies of opinions, clippings, and some personal papers. Included in Subgroup 2 are materials relating to school desegregation cases, civil rights cases, and the case of Jeffrey MacDonald.
Four cubic feet of duplicate material, printed material, and other routine materials such as bills and receipts have been discarded. The majority of discarded items are from Subgroup 1, which received more intensive processing than Subgroup 2.Back to Top
Butler's political correspondence covers a wide variety of issues including the organization and activities of the Young Republicans of North Carolina; numerous local, state, and national political issues and races of the period; and state Republican Party issues and organization. Prominent correspondents include Marion Butler, Charles Jonas, and Simeon De Lapp.
A wide variety of broadsides, pamphlets, maps, and cartoons concerning the major political issues and personalities of North Carolina politics during this period. Some of the major pamphlets include "The South and the Electoral College"; "Young Republican Manual"; and "Delegates: Republican National Convention, 1948".
Arrangement: roughly chronological.
These are primarily texts and notes for speeches Butler delivered on a wide variety of state and national political issues. Among the issues discussed are the New Deal, desegregation, Korea, the Supreme Court, and states rights. Also included are a number of drafts of state Republican Party platforms and resolutions.
Arrangement: by subject.
Miscellaneous political material including press releases, Republican Party platforms and resolutions; lists of state Party members and officials; proposed state platforms; plans for organizing the Young Republicans; organizational plan of the Republican Party of North Carolina; and transcripts of a variety of radio speeches delivered by North Carolina Republicans.
A wide variety of materials including letters concerning the Herring case; correspondence with Roy Wilkins of the NAACP; organization of the Institute of Government at the University of North Carolina; educational issues facing the Clinton schools; building and dedication of the Sampson County Hospital; Bar Association materials; and general Clinton school issues, particularly desegregation.
This material includes two transcripts involving the Herring case; two pamphlets entitled "Save Our Schools" dealing with desegregation in 1954; and a handbook for the Clinton Schools, 1955-56.
Arrangement: by subject.
Notes and typed copies for a number of speeches Butler gave on a variety of topics of legal or general interest. Representative titles include: "The Profession of Law"; "Qualifications and Responsibilities of Judges"; and "Robert E. Lee".
Arrangement: by subject.
This series includes some minutes of Bar Association meetings; an organizational plan for the Institute of Government at UNC; and notes and legal briefs from the Ernest Herring case. Also included are Sampson County Board of Education statements, and notes that contain sections produced by Butler. Finally, there is a memorandum of a symposium from a North Carolina Bar Association meeting entitled "A Lawyer Looks at Segregation".
Primarily personal family correspondence concerning routine matters. Most is from Algernon's Aunt Florence. Included in the correspondence is a letter from an Episcopal church organization condemning integration. Also included are a number of biographical data sheets Butler filled out for various publications. There is also extensive correspondence regarding biographical data for a Marion Butler historical marker.
Also included is a folder of clippings covering a wide variety of political and civic events in which Butler was involved from his law school days at UNC until he assumed his judgeship in 1959.
Each folder contains all the material Judge Butler retained regarding a specific case. Materials in each folder include relevant correspondence and copies of any of Judge Butler's orders regarding the case. Materials in each folder are arranged in reverse chronological order. In some folders several cases have been combined. Thus, for each letter, there is generally a folder marked "Criminal Cases Closed-B" or "Criminal Cases Closed-F," for example. These files were apparently used when there was insufficient material on a specific case to warrant a folder of its own. Most folders also have the case number.
The folders in these boxes are similar in arrangement to the criminal case files. In most cases each folder contains all the relevant material Judge Butler chose to retain regarding a specific case. Materials include correspondence, briefs and orders, and, in some cases, Judge Butler's handwritten notes on the subject. Materials are arranged in reverse chronological order. Some cases have been combined in general folders marked "Closed Civil Cases-D," for example. Most folders also have case numbers.
(21 folders) Civil Cases Closed-G - M. Harrington, et.al. vs. James Schlesinger, et.al. This suit involved several members of the U.S. Congress serving members of the Nixon administration in an attempt to halt clandestine military aid to 4 Indo-Chinese countries (1973). #04034, Series: "2. Civil Cases, 1959-1978." Box 18
Each folder contains all the material Judge Butler kept pertaining to a specific civil rights or habeas corpus case in which he was involved. Folder contents include correspondence, memoranda, notes, printed material, briefs, and orders. Materials on each case are generally in reverse chronological order.
Arrangement: chronological within each U.S. District Court division.
These boxes contain folders, arranged chronologically, which appear to be material of a more unofficial nature. The types of material include Judge Butler's daily schedules; his personal notes on trial testimony; records of pre-trial conferences; some routine correspondence relating to court functions, ceremonies, and events; lists of grand jurors; and some indexes.
These files are arranged according to the city or "division," in which Butler was hearing cases for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Included are cases tried in Raleigh, Wilmington, Wilson, Clinton, Fayetteville, Elizabeth City, New Bern, and Washington. Materials within the files on each division are arranged chronologically.
In July 1970 a group of black citizens filed suit against the New Hanover Board of Education. Judge Butler found New Hanover's system discriminatory and ordered that the New Hanover school board produce a new plan to desegregate their schools. Judge Butler eventually had to order extensive busing to remedy the situation. The whole New Hanover case was extremely controversial and provoked heated argument on all sides and some violent responses. Box 60 contains all the material Judge Butler retained on this case. Included are briefs, court orders, his own notes on the case, some correspondence to him form concerned parents and others, maps, charts, school annuals, and numerous printed exhibits. There is no particular arrangement within the folders.
In July 1969 a citizen's group filed suit to desegregate Warren County schools. Box 61 contains all the material Judge Butler retained on this case. It includes briefs, orders, notes, correspondence, and exhibits. Also included in this series are a separate folder of letters to Judge Butler from concerned parents which discuss the desegregation efforts in New Hanover, Halifax, and Warren counties; copies of several WRAL-TV editorials (1970-71) attacking Judge Butler and other judges for their desegregation decisions; and material on the desegregation of the Halifax County schools.
Also found in box 61 are materials relating to the trial of Jeffrey MacDonald. Included are briefs, orders, correspondence, exhibits, notes, and clippings.
Arrangement: by city, then chronological for each city.
This is routine legal material collected by Judge Butler which involved cases in which he did not directly participate. Included are schedules, briefs, correspondence to Judge Butler from other judges seeking advice, and numerous court calendars.
This series contains material Judge Butler retained regarding the various judicial conferences he attended form 1960 to 1978. Included are schedules, itineraries, subjects discussed, bills and receipts, correspondence, maps, and postcards.
This series contains correspondence between Judge Butler and other Fourth Circuit Judges, and copies of opinions delivered by the Fourth Circuit.
Arrangement: by subject.
This series contains two types of material. There are the minutes of the Rules Revision Committee of the Eastern District of North Carolina. Judge Butler was a member of this committee. This committee began its work in 1960 and produced a volume entitled "Rules of the Court of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina." A copy of this volume is included with the minutes. Also included are the recommendations of the North Carolina State Bar for the appointment of counsel for indigent defendants. Also present are several folders pertaining to Court of Appeals cases. These folders contain annotated briefs and Judge Butler's handwritten notes on the cases.
This series contains folders on cases Judge Butler considered important. The folders include handwritten notes, correspondence, briefs, orders, and exhibits.
Arrangement: by subject.
About two-thirds of this series consists of correspondence concerning Butler's appointment as United States District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina in 1959. The rest of the material includes texts of speeches given by Butler, Republican Party mailing lists and newsletters, and some biographical information. There is also a folder labeled "Threatening Letters," which contains copies of such letters to Butler, mostly from prisoners, and correspondence with law enforcement agencies concerning them.
This series consists of three albums of clippings pertaining to all aspects of Butler's judicial career from 1959 to 1978.
Processed by: John White, Laura O'Keefe, May 1985
Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008Back to Top