Archibald Willingham Butt was born on 26th September 1865 in Augusta, Georgia (USA).
He was the son of Joshua and Pamela Butt (nee Robertson). Archibald went to the University of the South in Tennessee, he graduated in 1888.
Archibald began his Military career during the Spanish-American war. Prior to that, he was a newspaper correspondent in Washington, representing the Louisville Post, Nashville Banner, Atlanta Constitution, Augusta Chronicle and Savannah News.
He then became secretary of the American legation at Mexico City when Matt. W Ransom of North Carolina was minister. Upon the death of Minister Ransom, Archibald returned to Washington and newspaper work.
It was through the efforts of Major-General H.C Corbin, Adjutant-General of the army during the Spanish-American war, that Major Butt entered the service. He was one of twenty young officers appointed to commands in fifteen volunteer regiments for Philippine service.
He was commissioned a captain in the quartermaster’s department.
On his return from the Philippines he was given a commission in the regular army and went to Cuba with the army of occupation. Shortly afterward he was chosen as military aide to President Roosevelt. Major Butt, then a captain, attained considerable prominence because of his association with President Roosevelt.
Socially, no bachelor in Washington was liked more than him. He lived in an old fashioned mansion where he entertained lavishly.
While working for the President, Archibald had a most distinctive feat, when he rode to Warrenton and back. It was a 106 mile trek, and took twenty hours. Archibald spent 14 hours and 20 minutes in the saddle. The ride was over frozen roads, and the last 30 miles was made in a blinding sleet storm.
Archibald was also great at tennis, swimming and walking and later he became a great lover of golf.
When Taft became president, Archibald stayed on with him in the same capacity.
Archibald became a Major in 1911.
The Washington Post 24 March 1911.
BUTT IS NOW A MAJOR
Military Aid to President Taft Gets a Promotion.
MAY QUIT HIS PRESENT POST
Active Service in the Army Likely to Be His Assignment in Future - Is One of Best Known Officers Ever Serving at White House - Popular in Capital Society- Much in the Public Eye.
Capt. Archibald Willingham de Graffenreid Butt, better known as Capt. “Archie” Butt, military aid to President Taft, and who served in a like capacity with former president Roosevelt, yesterday was made a full-fledged major in the United States army. The examination for promotion, in which half a dozen fellow captains were ordered before the board with Capt. But, was held some weeks ago. It was not until yesterday, however that the commission was signed by President Taft.
It is more than likely that Maj. Butt will give up his position as military aid to the president, and will be placed in active service in the army. It is customary that the military aid be a captain.
MUCH IN PUBLIC EYE.
Maj. Butt probably is one of the best known military aids ever at the White House. He is more in the public eye today than probably any other army officer. Maj. Butt is 41 years old, and a bachelor, and one of the most popular men in Washington society. Born in Georgia, he retains the Southern ideas of hospitality and entertaining, and his home in this city, while old-fashioned is one of the most comfortable in the city and its appointments have been collected in all parts of the world. This luxury Maj. Butt will be forced to give up if he is returned to active service.
The following is an interesting article from 10th June 1911.
TAFT’S AID ELUDES DAN CUPID’S TRAPS
Belles of Washington in Vain Assail Heart of Maj. “Archie” Butt.
Duties Handicap Flirtation
Popular Officer must Accompany President and Be Watchful for Attacks.
By Daisy Fitzhugh Ayres.
Washington June 10.
Everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went, everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go”
That’s President Taft and Archie Butt to a “t yty.”
The President is Archie’s shadow - a pretty substantial one - in as much as whenever you see the gallant captain from Augusta, Ga., and Louisville, Ky, and Washington and some more places, advancing with his official strut, “that a very good sign” that his presidential boss is just about six feet in his wake. Archie is professional precursor. A fanfare of trumpets. Necks are craned to runner at the ruler of out realm republic. The premonitory symptom of the august arrical is the sight of the first aid to the president, in the glitter of gold lace on “dress” occasions in khaki at other times, erect and corseted, stalking majestically ahead.
Maj. Butt is the most popular man in Washington. In the public mind the imposing military gentleman is “Archie,” just plain so, to everybody except to the homefolk way down in the Cracker State. To them he’s “Arch,” pure and simple.
Everybody loves him. No spinster gentleman in Washington has half his vogue whenever he does espouse any of these dear 500 maids and widows, to whom rumour has affianced him for the last few years, half the eligible females in Washington will likely go into secret mourning - black ribbons in their lingerie in the place of pink and blue things like that, you know. But Archie shakes his head sadly and says that he will ne’er be wed.
BUYS ROSE FOR DEBUTANTE
At an exhibition drill for charity at Fort Myer, not long ago, where the President and his wife and their vade mecum, Maj. Archibald Willingham De Graffenreid Butt - don’t he come down with a bump - were illustriously present, one of the debutante belles of Washington peddling posies for philanthropy was seen clasping a long stemmed rose ecstatically. “I’m crazy about this flower,” the little bunch of absurdity fatuously exclaimed.
“Maj. Butt bought it and gave it to me!”
But for all his prestige, the national Archibald, connoisseur and collector of patchwork bed quilts, is little better than President Taft’s hired man. He enjoys small independence of action, being continuously at the executive beck and call.
Nobody in Washington is more in demand as a dinner guest than Maj. Butt, and nobody can do less unconditional accepting. His “yes” always has a string to it. “I’ll come,” he tells his eager hostesses, “Provided the President does not require my services at that time” At the eleventh hour he frequently has to telephone his regrets.
Archie is up in the forties somewhere and a fine figure of a man. He has a voice like a megaphone. He isn’t handsome facially - a kind of sandy blonde as to coloring, that goes with blue and green, and violet and looks awful with red. He is one of the few hand-me-downs from the Roosevelt administration that has stuck.
KNOWN ALSO AS WRITER.
Before Archie was a celebrity, he used to reel off Washington stuff for ten or twenty Southern newspapers. This was when he was in the Quartermaster’s Department. He would also perpetrate magazine fiction by the yard. It is said his story of southern life, “Both sides of the Shield,” first attracted the attention of President Roosevelt to him.
As an athlete, Maj. Butt is a regular out-and-outer. He has corns on his perfectly groomed hands from much golfing. That’s Archie.
The President has no solitude. It is a pitiful case. His stalwart aid-de-camp is the most delightful man in the world, of course, except a half dozen or so, but one could get weary of the unbroken companionship of the Angel Gabriel himself.
One is minded, in this connection, of the little girl whose mother solemnly impressed upon her that God was with her everywhere, watching every action.
In starting out for a walk the child’s pet dog annoyed her, following and jumping at her heels.
“Do Back Fido!” the little one petulantly exclaimed, “you are all the time taggin’ roun’, worse that Dod.”….
In early 1912, Archibald went to Europe on vacation.
For part of the journey, he was accompanied by Francis D. Millet, a American painter.
He also went to Rome, where he called upon the Pope and King Emmanuel.
He booked his return ticket onboard the White Star Lines new ship “Titanic”. He boarded the ship on Wednesday 10th April 1912, at Southampton.
There are several different reports from Titanic’s survivors as to what Major Butt was doing before and during the sinking; it seems he was everywhere at once.
Major Archibald Butt died in the sinking. His body was never found.
On his birthday (26 September) in 1912, a bronze tablet was unveiled in the All Saints Chapel, University of the South at Sewanee, in Nashville Tennessee to commemorate his noble life and heroic death. Major Butt was a Sewanee alumnus and the unveiling ceremonies were under the auspices of his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta.
A memorial service was held for Archibald on 2nd May 1912. 1,500 mourners attended, one of them being president Taft. The following is a report of the service which appeared in the Atlanta Constitution on 3rd May 1912. (page 3)
TAFT PAYS HONOR TO ARCHIE BUTT
President Visibly Affected as He Praises Personal Aide.
Business Suspended in Augusta While Memorial Services Are Conducted in Crowded Opera House --- Major Cumming and Bishop Gailor Speak.
Augusta, Ga., May 2.- President Taft and Augusta paid tribute today to Major Archibald W. Butt, the president’s personal aide, who was lost in the wreck of the Titanic. Augusta was major Butt’s home and for the several hours today business was practically suspended while memorial services were conducted in the grand opera house. Flags were at half-mast on most of the public buildings, and thousands of the persons crowded around the opera house anxious to hear president Taft speak.
Other speakers on the program in addition to the president were major Joseph B. Cumming, of Augusta, and right Rev. Thomas F. Gailor, bishop of Tennessee.
President Taft reached Augusta at 8 o’clock this morning. He was a breakfast guest of mayor Barrett. After a reception at the commercial club this afternoon he leaves for Washington, where he is due early tomorrow.
Taft Visibly Affected.
The president was visibly affected by the tributes paid to Major Butt. There were tears in his eyes as he called up memories of the man who was his aide ever since he entered the White House and who had travelled thousands of miles with him.
Mr. Taft made only a short speech but he came near breaking down twice.
“Never did I know how much he was to me until he was dead,” Said the President. “Lacking nothing of self-respect and giving up nothing he owed to himself he conducted himself the happiness and comfort of the president, who was his chief. To many fine qualities he added loyalty, and when he became one of my family he was as a son or brother.”
Mr. Taft told how he met Major Butt first in the Philippines, and later as aide to President Roosevelt. He dwelt on Major Butt’s devotion to Mr. Roosevelt and himself.
“It had always seemed to me,” Said the President, “that Archie never married because he loved his mother so. The greatest sorrow of his life was when she left him.”
Mr. Taft concluded with a word more as to Mr. Butt’s spirit of “self-sacrifice,” he said, “had become a part of his nature. If Archie could have selected his time to die, he would have taken the one God gave him.”
Taft Touches Hearts.
When President Taft left Augusta at 3:50 o’clock this afternoon on a special train scheduled to run to Washington, it was after he had touched the hearts of the people of this part of Georgia as he perhaps has never those of any other part of this country.
His visit was more in the nature of a friend, come to pay a tribute to the memory of a friend on the occasion of the city’s memorial to Major Archibald Willingham Butt, than in the outward demeanour of his official position, and that suppressed emotion which was visible to his audience as he delivered a personal tribute to major Butt has deeply touched the people here.
After the memorial ceremonies at the opera house, a brief informal reception was held at the commercial club, when a number of the president’s friends, made during previous visits to the city, met him again. During the early afternoon, until his train time the president was entertained at the home of Mr. Landon Thomas, on The Hill.
In 1913, the Millet-Butt memorial fountain was constructed near the White House in the Ellipse.
In 1914, President Taft dedicated the Butt Memorial Bridge in Augusta, Georgia.
The following was printed in the Atlanta Constitution on 15 April 1914:
Unveiling of Butt Memorial Postponed Because of Rain
Augusta Ga.- April 14. - Masons from the Temple-Noyes Lodge of Washington and citizens of Augusta today united in paying tribute to the memory of the late Major Archie Willingham Butt, aide-de-camp to two presidents of the United States, who lost his life in the Titanic disaster. The occasion was a barbecue in connection with the dedication of the handsome Butt memorial bridge, which spans the first level of the city canal at Fifteenth and Greene streets.
The formal unveiling of the memorial bridge and laying of he cornerstone by the masons was postponed until tomorrow on account of rain.
The bridge proper is constructed of concrete. At each of the two approaches are two massive lions, carved from limestone, one bearing a bronze shield engraved with the coat-of-arms of the United States, another with the Georgia coat-of-arms, a third with the coat-of-arms of the Butt family, and the fourth the Temple-Noyes lodge coat-of-arms. Four tall columns surmounted by bronze eagles, rise from the four corners of the central arch of the structure. In the centre is a bronze bas relief of Major Butt. A bronze tablet bears the following inscription, which was written by former President Taft:
“In honor of Archibald Willingham Butt.
“Born in Augusta, Georgia, September 26, 1865.
“Graduated University of the South 1888.
“Major in United States army, trusted aide-de-camp to two presidents.
“Major Butt went to his death on the steamer Titanic after the rescue of the women and children from the ill fated vessel, April 14 1912.
“In memory of his noble and lovable qualities as a man.
“His courage and high sense of duty as a soldier.
“His loyalty and efficiency as a public servant.
“His fellow citizens of Augusta dedicate this bridge.”
Early today the visitors were given an elaborate southern barbecue on a large estate near the city. Later they were taken in automobiles to various points of interest in the city. A light rain fell during the greater part of the morning.
The Washington delegation included C. Fred Cook, chairman of the committee on arrangements; Leroy B. Keene, post master.
Shortly after noon, members of the visiting party called informally at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Butt, brother and sister-in-law of the late Major Butt.
There is a cenotaph for Archibald in section 3 of the Arlington National Cemetery. (A American military cemetery established during the American civil war.) The cenotaph reads:
"Military aide to the President (1908-12),
son of Joshua Willingham and Pamela Robertson Butt. Born September 26, 1865 in Augusta, Georgia.
Lost at sea on April 16, 1912, when the steamship Titanic with 1500 souls on board sank in the Atlantic ocean.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Lord, Walter (1955). A Night to Remember. Page 78. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-27827-4.
1860 United States Federal Census > Georgia > Richmond > Augusta Ward 4
U.S. Army Historical Register, 1789-1903, Vol. 1 page 270
U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900
The Mansfield News 26 September 1912
The Indianapolis Star 11 Jun 1911
The Washington Post 24 Mar 1911
The Washington Post 5 Jun 1910
Butt AW. Taft and Roosevelt: The Intimate Letters of Archie Butt, Military Aide. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1930