Butt, Florence Thornton (1864–1954)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: September 23, 2017

Florence Thornton Butt, whose grocery store was the first link in the H-E-B chain founded by her son Howard Edward Butt, was born in Buena Vista, Mississippi, on September 19, 1864, the daughter of John and Mary (Kimbrough) Thornton. She spent her youth in Buena Vista, where she often assisted her two pastor brothers in holding revivals. She later enrolled in Clinton College and, as the only female in her class, graduated with highest honors. Afterward, she taught school. In 1889 she married pharmacist Clarence C. Butt. The couple lived in Mississippi and Tennessee before moving to Texas in 1904 in search of a more suitable climate and better medical facilities to treat Clarence's tuberculosis. After a year in San Antonio, the family, which included their three young sons, moved to Kerrville. With her husband unable to work, Mrs. Butt became an agent for the A&P Tea Company, taking and delivering grocery orders door-to-door. She accumulated a small stock of groceries and invested sixty dollars to open the C. C. Butt Grocery on Main Street in Kerrville. The store was on the ground floor of a two-story building, which Mrs. Butt rented for nine dollars a month. She combined her business and domestic responsibilities by moving her family into the second floor of the building and using her sons as delivery boys. She continued to run the store until 1919, when her son Howard returned from the navy and took over as manager. She then concentrated on religious and civic efforts in Kerrville. She was a devout Baptist and a leader in the Eastern Star. She died at her Kerrville home on March 4, 1954, after suffering a stroke, and was buried in Glen Rest Cemetery. Her survivors included her sons Howard and Eugene. By the end of the twentieth century the H-E-B stores were the largest privately owned food chain in the nation.

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Austin American, March 5, 1954. Austin American-Statesman, April 9, 1985. San Antonio Express, March 5, 1954. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Howard Edward Butt, Sr., Howard Edward Butt, Jr., Charles C. Butt).

  • Women
  • Business
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Hill Country and Edwards Plateau Region

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Butt, Florence Thornton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/butt-florence-thornton.

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May 1, 1995
September 23, 2017

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