Major Archibald Willingham Butt


Major Archibald Willingham Butt, military attache and personal advisor to Presidents Roosevelt and Taft, was one of the most widely beloved men of his day. Noted for his matchless wit and charm, this affable friend and confidante to the leaders of his nation, played perhaps the most uniquely powerful role in the politics and social life of Washington.

The story of the life and career of this amazing personality, one of America's leading figures in the military, government and cultural history of the early 20th century, is however in eclipse and in need of fresh evaluation.

To learn more about Archie Butt, read his entry on the Arlington National Cemetery website:

To read about the Willingham branch of the Butt family, to which ET's own Doug Willingham belongs, go to Doug's biographical article for The Handbook of Texas Online:

Hopefully Doug will also want to elaborate on Archie's story a little for us.

Maj. A.W. Butt, 1909 and 1910 respectively.

Images are non copyright-restricted and available for purchase through Library of Congress (Prints and Photographs Division) Washington, D.C.

Hey, Randy!

Thank you so much for using your posting skills to share information about Archie Butt. I think he would be amazed and deeply touched if he knew that people, such as yourself, in the year 2003, are making an effort to have his short life and tragic death remembered.

Best regards,

Oh, poor Randy! I'm sorry, I didn't see the photo when I first posted. After seeing Dr. W's post, I went back and took a look. Quite a striking gentleman! Absolutely, a wonderful photograph. You're always so generous to share your wealth of research. Thank you!

Dear Randy, Kate, Jason, Kyrila and others who might have seen Randy's initial post.

Thank you for showing an interest in Archie.

Having read all of his published letters, his own posthumously-published novel, his National Archives file, his service record, the many short articles on his life, George Behe's and Phil Gowan's contributions, most of the references to him in books on the Titanic, excerpts of his "procedure manual" on the ocean transportation of horses, references to him in books and biographies of Roosevelt, Taft, Alice Longworth and other personalities whose paths he crossed in his lifetime, the memorials to him on the Ellipse near the White House, in the National Cathedral, Arlington Cemetery, and the bridge named in his honor in Augusta, correspondence with members of the Augusta Geneological Society on top of my own relatives' input, I wonder, does anyone have any other leads on research into his life? I still need to explore Corbis and other historical photograph repositories, and would dearly love to discover the dispensation of the illusive painting of Archie by his friend and travelling companion, Frank Millet. George Behe has been searching for this, too.

George, here's a proposition: If I find the painting before you do, you have to attend a meeting of the "Texas Titanic Mafia". If you find it first, I'll pay your expenses.

Phil, if you see this post, I wonder if there is something I've overlooked. Have any of his Georgia relations ever shown an interest in him, that you've heard? My family doesn't know any of the Georgia kin.

Thanks, again, all.

Hi, Doug!

Have you ever considered writing a biography of Major Butt? I doubt if any other historian has done as thorough a job of researching the Major's life as you have, and it would be great if you could distill your knowledge of the man and put it all down on paper for the benefit of everyone else who shares your interest. (Phil Gowan, Don Lynch and I might have to fight each other for the first copy of your book, but that's another story.) :) I hope you'll give such a project some serious thought, though, because you're definitely the right man for the job. (If there's any way I might be able to help you with the project, please don't hesitate to let me know; in fact, if you'll write to me privately, I do have at least one interesting tidbit about the Major that you might not have seen before.)

And thanks very much for your incredibly generous invitation to attend a meeting of the Texas Mafia -- I appreciate it very much. (Wouldn't it be great if one of us were to stroll into the meeting with a mysterious, paper-wrapped oil portrait under his arm?) :)

By the way, Doug, have you been watching the History Channel's two-part biography of Theodore Roosevelt? I missed it on Monday and Tuesday but intend to tape it when it's rebroadcast on Saturday. At any rate, I thought I should give you a heads-up in case the program contains the film footage of Major Butt that we discussed some time ago. (Let's keep our fingers crossed.)

Take care, my friend.

All my best,

And there are many of us who are writers who will be willing to give you all the help you need to put the book together and help you edit the material. Usually most major bookstore chains (Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million) host writers' groups where you can learn technique and other tips to help you get started and keep going. Don't be skeered - it's just paper.

George asked: "Have you ever considered writing a biography of Major Butt?"

I'm glad somebody with a bit more leverage has suggested that to Doug as well.

And George, you have GOT to come to a meeting in Texas!

As for Doug's being "skeered," he's too modest to say it but he's a very talented writer himself and was editor for a professional journal for some years. I think it's a matter of his finding the time to write! We can all relate to that.

But with any luck, we'll get a book out of the guy!

Dear George, Kyrila and Randy,

Thank you all for your encouragement. Perhaps I can start with a research article for ET. I have "collected" Archie for years and still feel there are stones unturned in my research which I would hate to learn about after writing something for publication. I am not unfamiliar with historical research and writing or how things get published, although I have never written a book or shopped around for a publisher. When I feel that I have exhausted every reasonable resource for information on Butt's life and times, and decide on a focus and a direction for the book, I will remember your offers for help and will definitely conscript you!

Meanwhile, keep me posted on Archie sitings.

George, that painting exists and we will find it. Your image of you walking in to a meeting with that rolled-up painting left a great big smile on my face! I'm going to focus on that image until it happens, with the additional fantasy that you got it on E-Bay for 20 bucks but would be willing to sell it to me for 30. And no, I wasn't aware that I was missing a Teddy Roosevelt documentary. Thanks for the heads up.

Warmest regards,

Kelly Beth Vogelsong


Great links and pics! Thanx for posting them. I just started visiting the LOC website (finding the link here) and the photos they have are amazing!



I'm going straight to the LOC site as soon as I post this. I had never seen the head and shoulders portrait of Archie until Randy posted it.

George, they re-ran the History Channel biography on T.R., so I got to see it. I saw Archie twice, but no motion picture footage. Did you?


Kelly Beth Vogelsong


I'd never seen the pictures posted, either. At the LOC site, I especially enjoyed the ones of J.J. Astor, his wife, and his home.