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Howard E. Butt Jr., eldest son of H-E-B founder and philanthropist Howard E. Butt, former president of the H. E. Butt Family Foundation and vice chair of H-E-B’s board, died on Sept. 11 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. He was 89.
Born Sept. 8, 1927, in Kerrville, Texas, Butt grew up in his family’s food business and attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas. After graduating in 1947 with a business degree, he married his longtime sweetheart, Barbara Dan Gerber.
As president of the H. E. Butt Foundation, one of his most renowned roles, Butt greatly expanded upon the vision of his parents, who created the charity. Established in 1933 as one of the earliest private Texas foundations, the foundation has several programs, including free outdoor camping facilities for underprivileged children on 1,900 acres of land in the Texas Hill Country. After taking over the foundation in 1982, he grew the program to serve more than 20,000 campers each year.
A deeply religious man, Butt pursued a number of spiritual endeavors, including the creation of the Layman’s Leadership Institute in conjunction with evangelist Billy Graham, which hosted national faith-based programs for business professionals, and the Laity Lodge Retreat Center, which brought together internationally renowned authors, professors, theologians and others to speak on faith. He also hosted the national radio broadcast, “The High Calling,” which discussed spirituality in life and work, and authored several books on faith and leadership. His work received recognition from several U.S. presidents: President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the first Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower invited him to address one of the first National Prayer Breakfasts.
"Christianity that does not change us in our homes will never change the world," Butt was fond of saying, adding that "church work is done wherever we have excellence in our work that exhibits love for the people we are working with."
"Howard had a vision of impacting the world but doing it through personal renewal within the family and the local church," said longtime friend and businessman Jack Willome. "He was unique in his recognition of the compatibility between sound biblical teaching and sound psychological understanding."
Butt is survived by his wife, Barbara; two siblings, Eleanor Butt Crook and H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt; three children, Howard III (Pamela), Stephen (Susan) Butt, and Deborah Dan Rogers (David); eight grandchildren, Howard IV (Kristen), Hillary (Tom), Jeffery (Alexandra), Sarah and Shelby Butt, and Katherine (Rob), Alexandra (Patrick), and Jackson Rogers; and one great-granddaughter, Charley Butt.
Remembrances may be sent to the Friends of The H.E. Butt Family Foundation, P. O. Box 290670, Kerrville, Texas 78029-0670. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, at Trinity Baptist Church, 319 E. Mulberry Ave., San Antonio.