Who is John L. Butler Jr.?
Black History Month 2022 has just passed and I’m thinking about how it is that we know Black people that we often do not recognize while they are creating history right now. One such person is John L. Butler, Jr., a member of the Cinema Audio Society (CAS) and The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Professor Butler was the Manager of the Peterson Sound Studio and instructor of sound recording at Ohio University for more than 30 years. He has been a friend of mine since 1969 when I took my first job working for Young Life Campaign in Pittsburgh after graduating from Ohio University. He was the director of the program.
John's professional path has been rich and diverse. He has been a part of the team that designed audio systems for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He has consulted with the Nigerian and Liberian television networks. He was director of the sound department for film at WQED television in Pittsburgh, PA, and worked on National Geographic film specials, such as one of his earliest works, Voyage of the Hokule’a in the 1970s. It was an amazing voyage in the open sea from Hawaii to Tahiti on a 60 foot, double-hulled Polynesian canoe. He has recorded sound for many feature films, including George Romero’s Knight Riders. He was the sound engineer for Master Artist Recordings and Mode-Art Pictures. He worked on the "Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood" television series, where he even appeared as himself in one episode.
John taught sound recording and mixing techniques at the Ohio University School of Film to students from around the world. He's currently conducting sound system design workshops for radio, television, film, and podcasts for churches, schools, and auditoriums.
It has been my honor to have painted and donated a portrait of John to the School. It is based on a photograph by Professor Gary Kirksey. The photo was taken when John assembled a crew that helped to initiate the first African American, women-led 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in far Western North Carolina. The event was called A Festival of African American Gospel Music: When All God’s Children Get Together. The incredible presenters, consultants, and scholars included John Butler, Gary and Shirley Kirksey, Akil Houston, Traci Currie, Wayne Gaines, Rebecca Robinson, Lucious Reid, and Erwin Viera. The local scholar was the late David Brose.
Twenty-four years later, One Dozen Who Care, Inc. (ODWC) is grateful to John and his crew for traveling to the mountains of far Western North Carolina to help create a historic organization that is leaving a wonderful legacy for all who have benefited from its extensive community development programs since 1998. ODWC is still working to tear down walls that divide people and to build bridges across the lines of race, religion, national origin, gender, and anything else that keeps folks from working together to build better communities.