Butler Derrick was a powerful legislator who also provided stellar constituent service, an acute observer of government and politics, and a delightful storyteller. He won Bryan Dorn’s seat in Congress in 1974 after Mr. Dorn decided to run for Governor rather than seek certain re-election to the House. Derrick’s service in the House was marked by influence, from his early appointments to the Budget and Rules Committees, to his mid-career service on the Congressional Textile Caucus and the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and culminating in his appointment as Chief Deputy Majority Whip.
We approached Derrick immediately on hearing his unexpected February 1994 announcement that he was retiring from the House. Eventually, I travelled to Washington and met with his staff to determine what should and should not be included in his collection. I also visited his district offices and, in time, conducted oral history interviews with Mr. Derrick and several long-term staff. It was my first experience in actually closing a congressional office. To this day I remain impressed with the people Butler had gathered around him and their loyalty.
I learn something from almost every one of our donors. Butler taught me about the desire to serve. Every time I was with him, at some point, he would ask me, “What can I do for you?” or “How can I help you?” He seemed ill at ease unless I had a favor that he could grant me.
When I think of Butler, I rarely picture him at his office, or in his home, or behind the wheel of a new sports car. Instead, I think of a painting by his wife Beverly, who is a marvelously talented artist. It was a hunting scene showing Butler in a field, shotgun in hand and wearing a bright red jacket. All you saw was Butler’s back, but somehow Beverly’s art allowed her to capture Butler so clearly, that you immediately knew that it was Butler. He will be sorely missed and my life is so much richer for having known him.
–Contributed by Herb Hartsook