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Biography of Rev. Willie Buttry

written by his son, the late Robert G. Buttery

Rev. Willie Buttry

My father, Willie Buttry, was born November 17, 1887. He was the son of Jesse and Sarah (Burton) Buttry. He married my mother, Susan "Sukie" Johnson, on September 3, 1906.

In his early years, my dad would play the banjo and dance. He entertained the neighbors with his talent. One day the Lord spoke to Daddy and told him to preach the gospel. So Daddy gave up the banjo and the dancing and began preaching.

Daddy was a Missionary Baptist minister. He was pastor of many churches in Hancock and Hawkins Counties in Tennessee and a guest speaker at most of the others. He could preach for hours and hardly catch his breath. When the weather was so cold that the congregation would be freezing, Daddy would be sweating.

Daddy would travel on horseback and, during a revival, would spend up to three weeks with members of the congregation. While Daddy was gone, it was up to me, as the oldest boy, to be the man of the house. I did all the chores, including going into the mountain to cut and haul wood. This was not an easy task for a ten-year-old boy.

When Daddy was first called to preach, he couldn't read or write. Mommy would sit with him in front of the fireplace and use the charcoal to print the alphabet on the hearth. He learned to read the Bible word for word but couldn't read other books or a newspaper.

Daddy and Mommy's first child, Maude, died at three months of age. Their second child, Mae, was nearly deaf and couldn't talk until after the age of two. Daddy thought the Lord punished him in this way because of his fun-loving younger days.

The only whipping Daddy ever gave me was one time when I went to play with my cousin, Clay. Daddy was leaving and told me to be home when he got back or I'd get a limbing. Naturally I lost all track of time while playing. Suddenly remembering Daddy's words, I started running home. Daddy met me with a peach tree switch. My back stung as the sweat ran over the welts.

Daddy had a bay horse named George. After holding a revivial, Daddy would come home tired. He taught George to open the latch on the gate with his nose. If the latch wouldn't give, George would shake his head and Daddy would have to get down off the horse and open it himself.

Daddy took my baby brother and our dog, Bowser, to the cornfield once. He left my brother under a tree and told Bowser to stay with him. Daddy worked a while and went back to check on my brother. Not far from him lay a black snake that Bowser had killed. Bowser was hailed as a hero for having protected the baby.

In the springtime, Daddy took the horse, wagon, and plow to the cornfield, then rode home bareback. The next morning he would saddle the horse, take the rest of the team to the field, remove the saddle, and work the team. One evening he forgot to bring in the saddle. The next day, when Daddy went back to the field, Bowser was lying beside the saddle. He had waited all night for Daddy's return.

In February of 1928, Daddy was helping hold a revival at Fox Branch Church when he became ill. Will Pridemore brought Daddy home. Will and Mommy took Daddy into the house and put him to bed. He had double pneumonia. During the two weeks he lay in bed, he quoted Luke 13:34, "O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!" Daddy passed away February 21, 1928.