George Charles Butte, legal scholar and colonial administrator, the son of Charles Felix and Lena Clara (Stoes) Butte, was born on May 8, 1877, in San Francisco, California. When he was nine years old the family moved to Hunt County, Texas. He was reared on a farm near Commerce and attended the public schools there before taking a B.A. degree at Austin College in 1895 and B.A. and M.A. degrees at the University of Texas in 1903 and 1904. He later moved to Dublin, Texas. He was admitted to the Texas bar in 1903 and to the Oklahoma bar in 1904, and practiced at Muskogee, Oklahoma, until 1911, when he quit to travel and study. He attended the University of Berlin, 1911–12, took a degree in jurisprudence at Heidelberg University in 1913, and studied at the École de Droit in Paris until 1914, when he became professor of law at the University of Texas.
On October 5, 1918, Butte was commissioned a major in the United States Army and appointed chief of the foreign intelligence division of the general staff, a position he held until March 10, 1919. In 1920 Governor William P. Hobby appointed him to a commission to draft public-utility laws for Texas. In 1921 Butte was granted an honorary doctorate of laws by Austin College. He served as dean of the law school of the University of Texas in 1923–24. In 1924 he was nominated as Republican candidate for governor of Texas. Despite a spirited campaign that drew support of dissident Democrats and members of the Ku Klux Klan as well as Republicans, he was defeated by Miriam A. (Ma) Ferguson.
Butte was appointed attorney general of Puerto Rico in 1925 and remained in that office until 1928; he served three times as acting governor of the island. In 1928 he was appointed a special assistant to the attorney general of the United States. He became vice governor of the Philippine Islands on December 31, 1930, and acted as governor general in 1931–32. On July 1, 1932, he resigned to become associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. In 1936, at the request of the Railroad Commission of Texas, he was granted a year's leave of absence to organize a division of, and draw up regulations for, oil and gas conservation in Texas.
On August 21, 1898, Butte married Bertha Lattimore at Dublin, Texas; they had five children. Butte was a Baptist, a thirty-third-degree Mason, and a member of the American Society of International Law, the American Law Institute, Alpha Tau Omega, Delta Theta Phi, and a number of clubs. He was an honorary life member of the State Bar of Texas and in 1928 was honorary president of the Puerto Rican bar association. In 1913 he published two works: Great Britain and the Panama Canal and Amerikanische Prisengerichtsbarkeit. He was known internationally as an expert on colonial administration and international law. He died in Mexico City on January 18, 1940, and was buried at Dublin, Texas. He was survived by his second wife, Angelina.