GRASONVILLE — Lifelong waterman, Captain Warren Butler, 92, died unexpectedly, Friday, July 2, of apparent heart failure.
Upon learning of his death, Jerry Harris, founding family member of Harris Seafood, and Harris Crab House at Kent Narrows, said, “My whole family knew Captain Warren. He was a great man, a great American. He sold oysters to my father. I looked up to Captain Warren all my life. Black or white, he was a role model, someone to model your own life by. I wish there were many more people in the world like Captain Warren!”
Longtime Grasonville Community Center, Past President Jim Brown said, “He was a gentle, kind man. Always greeted you with a smile, and very respectful to everyone. He loved to talk about the history of the Chesapeake Bay.”
Butler, native born of Queen Anne’s County, grew-up in Grasonville. He graduated from the then segregated Kennard High School in the Class of 1946.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving from 1950 — 1953. He achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant. He served in both Japan and Korea. He was honorably discharged in 1953.
He married Nettie E. Green on August 14, 1955. They had one daughter, Nina Kaye Butler.
Butler had a lifetime passion working as a waterman, first, working alongside his father and brothers to help support their family. From 1954 — 1983, Butler worked in the oyster and crab industry in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. Throughout his life, he owned and operated 17 commercial boats, carrying may fishing parties out of the Chesapeake Bay, also oystering and sightseeing.
For a short time, Butler worked for the state of Maryland as a Correctional Officer at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup, MD. From 1965 — 1967, he served as President of the Queen Anne’s County Waterman’s Protective Association. He was also instrumental in the organizing of the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Post 10079 for Black Veterans of Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. He served from 1967 — 1987 as Quartermaster at the post.
In 1970, Butler was appointed by then Governor of Maryland, Marvin Mandel, to become the first African American member of the Queen Anne’s County Public Schools Board of Education. He served there for 12-years, and served as the first African American President of the QA Board of Education from 1973 — 1975.
“We are saddened to share the news of the passing of Warren Columbus Butler,” shared QACPS in an official statement.
From 1982-1984, Butler served on the QA Board of Ethics and Health Planning Board. From 1989 — 1996, he was employed by the U.S. Army’s Department of Defense in Aberdeen as a Patrol Boat Operator.
In 2013, Butler was one of the featured captains in the documentary film titled “Black Captains of the Chesapeake Bay”. He is also featured as one of seven African American Trailblazers at the Kennard African American Cultural Center & Museum in Centreville, and part of the exhibits at the Chesapeake Heritage and Visitor Center located at Kent Narrows, in Chester.
In 2013, Butler was invited to speak at the Waterman’s Story Sharing event, hosted at the VFW in Grasonville. He was one of eight local waterman to speak there. Each spoke about their personal experiences on the Chesapeake Bay. The event also included “treasures” (meaningful artifacts) many of the waterman pulled up from the bottom of the bay while harvesting oysters, clams and crabs over their lifetimes. A truly educational program.
Bulter was an active member of New United Methodist Church (formerly Union Wesley UMC) in Chester. There, he served as a member of the UM Men and Tri-County Male Choir.
Still very active, Captain Butler took his last fishing party out on Saturday, June 26. He had a fishing party scheduled for Saturday, July 3.
Several local waterman, many who grew-up knowing Captain Butler, praised him. One, who knew Butler personally for 56-years said, “I knew him really well. He knew the Chesapeake Bay as well as anyone. He was one of the best waterman ever!”
Craig Wright, Butler’s son-in-law, expressed great respect about Captain Butler, saying, “He was a man who never saw fault in anybody. If he saw someone doing something wrong, he’d usually say, ‘That man is probably having a bad day.’ Black or white, he looked for the good in people. He loved everybody.”
There will be a public visitation, Friday evening, July 16, at New United Methodist Church in Chester, from 6 p.m. — 8 p.m. Also, a viewing Saturday, from 9 a.m. — 11 a.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, located at 830 Romancoke Road (Route 8, south), in Stevensville, immediately followed by the funeral service at Christ Church. Interment will be at the small cemetery at New UMC.