Clayton L. Butler – Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army

Soldier Was Devoted to Service Long After His Career Ended

Barely out of Washington's Dunbar High School, Clayton L. Butler left behind family and friends and joined the segregated Army in 1947. Starting in the 84th Tank Battalion at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he persevered and thrived in the disciplined military life. By the time he retired as a chief warrant officer 3 in 1977, he had seen the world and experienced many cultures.

Of all the places he had lived and visited during his 30-year military career — Japan, Korea, Germany, France, Vietnam and numerous others — Butler decided that the best place to put into practice all that he had learned was at home. He returned to Washington with his family and immediately and quietly began building a legacy of service at his church and in the community.

A modest man with an earnest smile, Butler spent 22 years perfecting the sound and tape ministry at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. In his neighborhood, he rose to leadership in the Lamond Riggs Civic Association and became an advisory neighborhood commissioner. He worked behind the scenes and spoke out in public forums to get things done.

“It was his nature to serve. He was a servant,” said his daughter, Alicia Adams of Upper Marlboro. “He was always talking with us about service.”

Adams said her father, a fourth-generation Washingtonian who died August 21, 2006, of respiratory arrest at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, lived “his fantasy life. . . . He just wanted to see the world.”

The Army afforded him that chance. It also provided the opportunity to meet the woman who would become his wife of 39 years. While stationed in France in the mid-1950s, he traveled to Japan on assignment. In Yokohama, he met Setsuko Inomata, who was working for the Japanese army. He didn't speak Japanese, and she didn't speak English. But for two years after he returned to France, they corresponded with letters that had to be translated. After getting permission from his superiors, they married in 1959. The couple had two daughters and remained devoted to each other until his wife's death in 1998.

Butler continued moving up in the Army, and in 1966 he was inducted into the Warrant Officers Corps. He served in the Judge Advocate General Corps in Washington and Vietnam. He retired in 1977 and began working for the Retired Officers Association, now the Military Officers Association of America.

At the MOAA, he researched legislation that affected the group's 350,000 members and worked with several lobbyists who took the group's concerns to Congress. He retired in 1992.

“He loved legislation,” said Lester Henderson, research assistant for government relations at the MOAA, who replaced Butler. “He would read the congressional directory — the bible of what goes on — every day. He read that puppy. If you wanted to know something about legislation, Clay knew it.”

It was the same in everything he did. He immersed himself in his work.

For instance, at his church, one of the first places he returned to after his military service, Butler started an audio ministry with his own money. He brought recording equipment and set it up every Sunday, strategically placing the microphones and running cords behind the pulpit.

“He had to be there early enough to see that the system was operating like he wanted,” recalled the Rev. Jerry Moore Jr., former pastor of the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. “He recorded every service.”

At that time, Moore said, services were broadcast on WOL radio, and it was Butler who carried tapes every week to the radio station. As the technology changed, so did Butler, who also trained others to continue the ministry.

Through Butler's service there from 1977 to 1999, much of the sermonic and music history of that period has been preserved.

Butler also dedicated himself to working to improve his neighborhood. His daughter said his home was stuffed with tapes from the church and minutes from meetings of the Lamond Riggs Civic Association, where, starting in 1979, he served as recording secretary. He later was president of the group.

Butler, who was generally reserved, spoke out against a neighborhood grocery store's application for a liquor license, pushed city officials to repair old pipes and chided the District when it wanted to increase water and sewer rates in 1997. “Instead of billing us — the hostage resident homeowners — you should go after the absentee landlords and others who don't pay their bills,” he said at one public hearing.

Clay Butler, as he was known, lived with purpose. To do otherwise was not really living, Darryl Adams said he learned from his father-in-law.

As his granddaughter Carlisa Andrews wrote in a poem:

“He had a history of his own, even though he may not be in the history books.”


Served in the United States Army for 30 years. He departed this life on Monday, August 21, 2006. Funeral service will be held at Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, 4606 16th St. N.W. Washington DC on October 3, 2006 at 9 a.m. The interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. He is preceded in death by his wife Setsuko Butler; and survived by his daughters Alicia Adams and Jackie Andrews; devoted grandchildren Carlisa Andrews and Alexis Adams and a host of family and friends.

DATE OF BIRTH: 05/18/1927
DATE OF DEATH: 08/21/2006

DATE OF BIRTH: 12/19/1924
DATE OF DEATH: 11/14/1990

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