Perspectives Online

Endowment honors Jim Butler, long-time 4-H livestock specialist

Sharing anecdotes about Jim Butler (far left and below, signing the endowment) were Extension's Travis Burke and Tanya Heath, along with Dr. Brian Faris (right), the current 4-H livestock specialist.
Photo by Becky Kirkland

What began as a simple document-signing ceremony became an occasion that was part roast, part love fest on Feb. 22, as the Jim Butler 4-H Livestock Judging Endowment was established in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. But that's what happens when the namesake of the endowment is a figure as respected and admired as Jim Butler, former 4-H livestock specialist in the College's Department of Animal Science.

An N.C. State graduate with a 1949 bachelor's degree and 1955 master's degree, both in animal science, Butler was Extension livestock specialist in the Animal Science Department from 1949 to 1957. He then worked in private industry and was the first executive secretary of the N.C. Pork Producers Association (1965-1970), before returning to N.C. State to become Extension animal husbandry specialist in 1975, where he served until he retired as senior extension specialist in 1988.

"Even after retiring, Mr. Butler has stayed involved with the 4-H livestock program," said Dr. Johnny Wynne, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "He can still be found at the State Fair or at local shows. With this endowment, Jim Butler is supporting the program that helps grow blue ribbon boys and girls."

Jim Butler
Photo by Becky Kirkland
The mission of the endowment is to develop and provide broad-based financial support to enhance and expand N.C. 4-H youth livestock judging programs conducted at the local, county, district, state, regional and national levels - the types of activities and events where Butler, as a coach and judge, has been a positive influence on many young lives.

With Butler at the signing were his wife, Lillian, a former 4-H agent in Perquimans and Chowan counties, and their son, Ken. The endowment is being funded over five years through gifts from Butler, his family and his colleagues and friends.

There were many of those friends at the University Club that day, and practically everyone in attendance had a vivid Butler memory to share.

Recalling her experience as a young 4-H'er defending her selection in a livestock-judging event, Tanya Heath, Wilson County Extension agent, said, "Jim Butler was the first man I ever gave a set of reasons to, and he scared me to death!"

As others stood, it turned out there were a great many present that fondly remembered Butler as the judge to whom they'd presented their "reasons."

But especially memorable was Butler's former Animal Science colleague, Dr. Bob Jones, who charmed the audience with his stand-up-comedy-worthy delivery. Referring to a previous comment about cross-state trips when Butler regaled colleagues with stories about his dogs, Jones said that one particular story about one dog lasted "from here to Edenton."

Jones also recalled that he recommended Butler as Pork Council executive secretary because "he knows more people across the state than anybody I can think of."

To that, Butler said, "I suppose I'm one of the luckiest people in the world. I don't know many people in the university who have gotten to work in every county - and I was never 15 minutes away from someone that I knew.

"I look out here at all of you today and I remember things we did, and it brings back a lot of happy memories."

- Terri Leith