SAN ANTONIO – Butt family member passed away Sunday evening at the age of 89. For many decades Howard Butt, Jr. served as President of the H.E. Butt Foundation and as Vice Chairman of the H-E-B Board.
H-E-B is the largest family-owned company in Texas, led by family members who include Butt’s brother, Chairman and CEO Charles Butt, Howard Butt III and Stephen Butt.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of my brother, Howard,” said Charles Butt, H-E-B CEO. “His decades of inspired leadership, philanthropy and humanitarian efforts will forever be missed by our family and those he impacted across the U.S.”
Born in Kerrville, Texas, on Sept. 8, 1927, Butt grew up in the food business founded by his grandmother, Florence, in 1905. He attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, graduated in 1947 with a degree in business, and soon afterward married his longtime sweetheart, Barbara Dan Gerber.
While working in the family business, Howard, Jr., continued to pursue spiritual endeavors, creating the Layman’s Leadership Institute with evangelist Billy Graham, which hosted national faith-based programs for business professionals. In recognition of his efforts on behalf of workers, Butt was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the first Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.
In 1982, Butt was selected to assume the presidency of the H.E. Butt Foundation, which was founded in 1933 by Howard Butt Sr. and Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt. As one of the earliest private foundations in Texas, the H.E. Butt Foundation served as a vehicle for philanthropic contributions to south Texas communities, and in 1954 acquired 1,900 acres in the rural Texas Hill Country to provide free outdoor camping facilities for underprivileged children. After Howard, Jr. took on leadership of the foundation, he was able to greatly expand his parents’ vision, serving more than 20,000 campers each year – almost one million to date – including from churches and other non-profit groups. He also established the Laity Lodge Retreat Center in the Texas Hill Country west of San Antonio.
As a bridge builder between the secular and religious worlds, Butt is perhaps best remembered for nationally convening groups from all walks of life for intellectual discussion and inspired reflection.