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Col. Earl A. Butts

Camden

Posted: April 7, 2015 5:41 p.m.
Updated: April 8, 2015 1:00 a.m.

A graveside service for Colonel Earl Adolphus Butts, USAF Ret., will be held at 2:00 PM, Saturday, April 11, 2015 at the Quaker Cemetery, Camden, SC, conducted by the Rev. James Barnhill. Following the service, the family will be receiving friends at the home of Mrs. John Hill, 1820 Brevard Place, Camden. 

Earl was born in Cloud Chief, Oklahoma on December 17, 1917 and died in Milton, Florida on April 9, 2014 at 96 years of age.

He was the son of George Adolphus Butts and Ruth Florence (Tyree) Butts. Earl attended the University of Oklahoma and was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He was called to active duty in the United States Army in 1940 as a Lieutenant of Artillery stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC.

At Ft. Bragg, he met Ellen Manning Metts, daughter of Col. Walter Arthur Metts, Jr. and Sally Bland (Williams) Metts. They were married April 11, 1943, at Mulberry Plantation, Camden, SC. Ellen’s siblings were McCoy Metts Hill, and Sally Bland Wilson, both of Camden. Col. Metts was the son of Walter A. Metts and Mary McCoy Youmans of Columbia, SC. Sally Bland Metts was the daughter of David Rogerson Williams III and Ellen Clarke Manning of Mulberry Plantation, Camden, SC.

Earl transferred to the United States Army Air Corps in 1941, completed pilot training and was assigned as a flight instructor until the summer of 1943 when he was sent to the Pacific Theater to fly night bombing missions in B-24’s. He was awarded the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Silver Star. 

Following the war, Earl transitioned to jets and was involved in aerial reconnaissance operations in the Far East, Europe, and the US. He directed reconnaissance aircraft over Laos in 1961, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and the Dominican Civil War in 1965. He rose to the rank of Colonel and was Deputy Chief of Operations of the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Ramstein AB, Germany when he retired in 1968. Earl had a remarkable flying career, beginning with canvas-covered biplanes, then multi-engine bombers and ending with Mach 2 fighters.

After his military career Earl continued with his first love, flying, operating the municipal airport and flight school, first at DeFuniak Springs, Florida and then taking over the airport and flight school at Milton, Florida which he ran until 1985. 

Earl was an adventurer throughout his life, always including his family in his escapades. Even in retirement, he continued looking to the far horizon. He was an excellent photographer who took pictures all over the world beginning with his college newspaper days, compiling an enormous collection of travel and family photographs. He was an avid boater and skin-diver, both pastimes which he enjoyed whenever he lived near the water. He took up long-distance bicycling in his 60’s and rode his bicycle from Florida to Connecticut for his grandson’s high school graduation. In his 70’s, he was riding 400-mile treks in Canada. He was a prodigious reader and was particularly fond of books on Mathematics and Astronomy. When most men his age would be slowing down, Earl eagerly jumped into the new world of personal computers, learning operating systems and programming languages. In the Digital Age, Earl was able to combine his knowledge of science and his skill as a photographer, becoming highly proficient with Adobe Photoshop.

Earl is survived by his two sisters, Geraldine A. Highsmith of Fair Oaks, CA and Ruth Mary Caine of Portland, OR, and by two of his three sons, David Rogerson Williams Butts, and wife Susan, of Wilmington, NC and Colin Manning Butts of Milton, FL. Earl was predeceased by his wife, Ellen, in 2002 and his middle son, Noel Radford Butts of Greer, SC, in 2007. Radford’s widow, Madelyn, lives at the home in Greer. Earl is survived by four grandchildren, James Chesnut Butts, and wife Margie, of Wilmington, NC, John Nicholas Kane Butts, and wife Christi, of Asheville, NC, Dr. David Butts Rion of Pittsburgh, PA, and Phillip Manning Butts of Greer, SC. In addition, he is survived by five great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.

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