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Mourners gather to eulogize former Austin Mayor Roy Butler

Friday, November 20, 2009 by John Davidson

About 1,000 people packed into the LBJ Library auditorium for former Austin Mayor Roy Butler’s memorial service on Thursday afternoon. Butler died Friday, Nov. 13, following complications from a fall earlier this month. He was 83.


Butler served on the Austin School Board for nine years before he was elected mayor in 1971. He was the city’s first mayor to be elected by voters rather than by City Council, and remained in that office from 1971 to 1975.


Nicknamed “Mayor Wonderful,” Butler was also a successful businessman who at various times owned a car dealership, a beer distribution center and several radio stations. Butler and his wife, Ann, were also well-known philanthropists.


Ralph Wayne, Butler’s longtime friend and the former chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission, and former Austin Mayor and Travis County Commissioner Bruce Todd gave eulogies at the memorial service. Monsignor Fred Bomar presided.


“Mayor Butler, to me and to many of you, was a modern renaissance man,” Wayne said. “But a man with old-fashioned, solid character. He had a sure sense of what was the right thing to do and what wasn’t. And that gave him the courage to act on behalf of our city and our community when it was easy for others to back away.”


Another former Austin mayor, Travis LaRue, died Saturday, Nov. 14. LaRue, 96, was elected to City Council in 1963 and re-elected in 1965, 1967 and 1969, when he was appointed mayor. Butler succeeded LaRue as Mayor in 1971.


Among those attending Thursday’s service were former Mayors Ron Mullen (1983-1985), Frank Cooksey (1985-88), Lee Cooke (1988-91), Bruce Todd (1991-1997), Kirk Watson (1997-2001), Gus Garcia (2001-2003) and Will Wynn (2003-2009) as well as the entire current Austin City Council, including Mayor Lee Leffingwell.


Between bouts of coughing, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who was Mayor from 1981-1983, told In Fact Daily by phone that she was heartbroken that she could not attend the funeral because she had the flu. “I loved Roy Butler,” she said.

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