Eugene Butler, longtime editor of Progressive Farmer magazine, was born June 11, 1894, in Starkville, Mississippi. He earned bachelor of science degrees from both Mississippi A&M College (now Mississippi State University) in 1913 and Cornell University in 1915. He also studied journalism at Iowa State University, where he received a master's degree in 1917. His father, Dr. Tait Butler, was one of the pioneer editors of Southern Farm Gazette which eventually merged with Progressive Farmer magazine. He joined his father there as an assistant editor in 1917 in Memphis where the magazine was produced. He married Mary Britt Burns in 1921. The couple had a son and a daughter.
Butler moved to Dallas, Texas, in 1922 and became the editor of the Progressive Farmer Texas edition. He began to campaign through the magazine for more accessible rural health, water and soil conservation, and farm legislation. He also worked with the legislature to get the government to require fertilizer labels to provide a specific chemical analysis. He was alarmed because fertilizer distributors would often sell bags of sand to unwitting farmers, claiming they were fertilizer. He also called for crop diversification to balance those that depleted the soil.
In 1939 Butler became a member of the executive committee of Progressive Farmer magazine and vice-president of the board of directors in 1943. In 1953 he was named president of Progressive Farmer Company, the magazine's parent company. He was also named chairman of the editorial board from 1964 to the mid-1980s and named editor-in-chief in 1958. In 1966 Butler helped found Southern Living magazine.
Butler was a charter member of the Texas Agricultural Workers Association as well as the Dallas Agricultural Club. He also did research in cotton insect control which inspired him to become an activist. His work often earned him recognition; he received several honors including the Hoblitzelle Award in 1953 and one for "Outstanding Contribution to Welfare of all Texas Agriculture through Accurate and Effective Presentation of Information and Constructive Leadership" awarded by the Texas Cottonseed Crushers Association.
Butler retired from Progressive Farmer after the company was acquired by Time, Inc., in 1983. He continued to visit his office weekly until his 100th birthday and then biweekly until a few months before his death, the result of a recent stroke, on June 5, 1995. He died at his home in Dallas just six days before his 101st birthday.