Patrick Henry Butler III, historian, curator, and historic preservationist, the son of Patrick Henry Butler, Jr., and Rebecca Ann (Johnson) Butler, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, on July 3, 1945. He was educated in the public schools of Alexandria and graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1967. He received a master’s degree in American studies from the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in the Decorative Arts in 1969, a master’s degree in history from Johns Hopkins University in 1972, and a Ph.D. in history from Johns Hopkins in 1998. During his academic career, Butler held fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution, Historic Deerfield, the Newberry Library, and Chicago’s Field Museum.
Butler first came to Texas in 1975 to serve as curator of history at Texas Tech University museum in Lubbock. He also taught in the museum studies program at Texas Tech. He then served as director of the Institute for Museums and Community Education at the University of North Texas (1979), curator of the Harris County Heritage Society in Houston (1980–87), and historian and later director of the Moody Mansion in Galveston (1987–93). He also served as consulting curator for the Galveston Historical Foundation’s Samuel May Williams House from 1980 to 1983. Butler was a pioneer in the use of light and sound in the interpretation of historic buildings. As a consultant he helped to develop the content for the initial exhibit at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, and he served on the collections review committee for the Texas State Capitol.
In 1993 Butler returned to Virginia, where he served on the board of the Historic Alexandria Foundation (1993–2009), the City of Alexandria 250th Anniversary Celebration Commission (1996–2000), and the Historic Alexandria Resources Commission (1999–2009). In 2002 he was appointed to the Virginia State Board of Historic Resources, on which he served as member, vice-chair, and chair. In Virginia, he organized exhibits on the history of Alexandria and on the Episcopal Church in Virginia for the Virginia Historical Society. He was also active in the Democratic party and served as precinct captain in Alexandria as well as a consultant on political signage to two Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Virginia.
In 2009 Butler moved back to Texas and settled in San Antonio, where he continued his Democratic party activities and was a member of the board of the San Antonio Genealogical and Historical Society. At the time of his death, he was working on a book on the history of historic preservation in Texas. He died at his home in San Antonio on June 24, 2016.
Butler was raised as a Methodist and became a member of the Episcopal Church in the 1980s. He was an Eagle Scout and a member of the American Association of Museums, the American Association for State and Local History, the Texas Association of Museums, the Texas State Historical Association, and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio. He also wrote a number of entries for The Encyclopedia of the American West.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Butler, Patrick Henry III,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 21, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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