By John Sibley Butler

butlerMy father, Thygoest Jefferson Butler, taught me the value of education. Not just formal education, but learning to do things. And do things he did. He was a county agent, working with farmers to improve their crops, but he also owned a movie house, created a day-care center, built rent houses and built community wherever he went. We call it entrepreneurship now, but I can hear my father’s voice calling it “having a good hustle and knowing how to do things.”

We grew up in a very insular, segregated Louisiana, and we weren’t what you’d call rich. But because of my father’s value structure, we had everything we needed. It was a value structure that was developed between the end of slavery and about the mid-1960’s. His generation – the greatest generation – they built private schools, they built private colleges, entrepreneurial enclaves, neighborhoods and communities. They created a situation to help people do well.

My father, Thygoest Jefferson Butler

My father, Thygoest Jefferson Butler

My father, Thygoest Jefferson Butler[/caption]My father, Thygoest Jefferson Butler[/caption]I remember being at a family reunion when I was a kid. I looked around and it hit me that my grandpappy had sent all five of his children to college. That was back in the twenties and thirties. My father also had five kids, and all of us earned at least one degree. Our kids went to college too, so the tradition now covers three generations, and it’s going on four. Nowadays when we have our family reunion, we hand out t-shirts with all the people who graduated and what college they finished from. You don’t have to graduate from college to be a successful person, but I’m proud to say we haven’t lost a Butler yet.

To T.J. Butler, America was about education and entrepreneurship. Now I’m an educator who teaches about entrepreneurship. So I
guess you could say I inherited my father’s value structure. That’s what makes me my father’s son. And it’s what makes him my Somebody.

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