Paul M. Butler (1905-1961)
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

Paul M. Butler (1905-1961)

A native of South Bend, Indiana, Paul M. Butler received a law degree from Notre Dame in 1927 and remained actively engaged in Democratic politics for the rest of his life. In 1948, he accepted a position with the Indiana State Central Committee of the Democratic party, developing a reputation as a loyal committeeman. His work for this group propelled him to a seat on the Democratic National Committee in 1952, where he vocally championed the presidential candidacy of Adlai Stevenson. Despite Stevenson's defeat later that year, Butler remained committed to his presidential chances and allied himself with party forces that were seeking to "draft" Stevenson for the nomination in 1956. Becoming chairman of the DNC in 1954 helped him advance this cause, but it also enabled him to reshape the chairman's role in national political life. Believing that it was important for the Democratic Party to articulate a positive platform that differed from the White House's agenda, Butler disdained the efforts of prominent Congressional Democrats to accommodate the administration on a wide array of issues. Butler thus de-emphasized the fund raising aspect of his job and refashioned the DNC chairmanship into a forum for Democratic Party policy making. His own politics, however, which favored strong civil rights protections, angered many in the party's moderate and conservative wings who sought to emphasize their role in maintaining national unity through the frightening early days of the Cold War. Like many liberals of the period, Butler did not initially favor John F. Kennedy for the party's presidential nomination in 1960. Unlike many of these other liberals, however, Butler was never able to fully reconcile himself to Kennedy's candidacy even after he had won the nomination. Sensing that Butler's support was only lukewarm, Kennedy forces within the party had Butler replaced as DNC chairman in early 1961.

Sources: Who Was Who In America with World Notables, vol. 4, 1961-1968 (Chicago: Marquis-Who's Who, Inc., 1968), p. 142; Herbert S. Parmet, The Democrats: The Years After FDR (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), pp. 48-151.

Published by the Model Editions Partnership

Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. http://adh.sc.edu.

For more information, visit The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers home page at http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/.

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