Monday Photo Mystery Solved!

And it was solved asap via comments made regarding yesterday’s post.  My thanks to all of you, and particularly to my former graduate assistant Wesley Chenault (now Head of Special Collections & Archives, VA Commonwealth University), for immediately identifying Dr. Henry R. Butler, Sr. and pointing me to the Selena Sloan Butler Papers at the Auburn Ave. Research Library;

Another commentator suggested the probability of the uniform being related to the Knights of Pythias, and indeed it is! Today I made a quick check on Wikepedia, then on Ebay to look at K of P memorabilia for sale. Although nothing was there that is identical to Dr. Butler’s hat or badge, etc., the resemblance in pattern, etc., is quite noticeable. You can just see the “B” on Dr. Butler’s badge of what is actually “FCB,” which stands for the Pythian motto of “Friendship, Charity, Benevolence” and is on all K of P materials.

It turns out that Dr. Butler was responsible for raising the money “to save the colored Knights of Pythias of Georgia from extinction when an injunction by the white Knights of Pythias against them was being tried before the United States Supreme Court.”

That particular quote is from an item in the Selena Sloan Butler Papers where I found several other photos of Dr. Butler, Sr., as well as some biographical material and other documents that can be viewed online. One of these documents tells us that, among his many other offices and titles, he was the “Examining Physician to the K of P and Courts of Calanthe”. I really believe this is the uniform he is wearing in my portrait, even though he also spent over thirty years as Grand Master of Masons of Georgia (Prince Hall Affiliation). Another commentator linked me to Butler’s grave on Find a Grave where you can see a photo of his Masonic memorial.

The fine person who noted the K of P link, also pointed me to Butler’s biography in a publication found on Google Books – each biography is a fascinating read – “Twentieth Century Negro Literature: Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought….”  (edited by D. W. Culp, published 1902). Of course, my favorite part is that the book is “copiously illustrated with one hundred fine photo engravings.”

Little did I know what a prominent man, a real mover and shaker in Atlanta and in Georgia, was photographed by William L. Brockman. I knew the photographer’s subject was rather significant, but I never dreamed just how significant he would turn out to be.  Dr. Butler’s dates are 1862-1931, and I believe my portrait dates from about 1912, certainly no later than 1915, since Brockman left the city in early 1916.

Dr. Henry R. Butler, Sr., William L. Brockman and I thank you one and all for your Sherlock Holmes-like sleuthing out of this Mystery.



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