On May 8, 2008 Mrs. Lucille M. Pankey-Butler of Mattapan , Massachusetts passed away and was reunited with her husband Mr. Lee G. Butler, who preceded her in death. They both were laid to rest at Mt. Hope Military Cemetery in Boston . Known as a vigorous supporter and life time member of the Boston NAACP, Mrs. Butler left a sizable bequest to the Boston Branch NAACP to establish a scholarship to assist needy students pursuing higher education in the field of accounting.
The Boston Branch is honored to continue the legacy of Mr. and Mrs. Butler by honoring deserving students. Their passion for change.
Lucille M. Pankey-Butler Biography
Mr. and Mrs. Lucille and Lee Butler were known as generous givers of their time and talents for the benefit of others. Lucille Butler is described has been described as a remarkable women whose intelligence, influence and gracious spirit infused all of her endeavors—business, public service and human relationships. Barbara Patterson, Mrs. Butler's niece said, “She was a conceptual thinker, a generator of creative ideas and an energetic, self-starter. Perhaps because life had not always been easy for her, she recognized hardship and throughout her life she worked tirelessly to ease the way for others.”
Mrs. Butler's family was from Petersburg , VA , a small, river town close to Richmond . Following the Civil War, freedmen migrated to Petersburg for rebuilding work on the Appomattox River , and to escape the white control of more rural areas. The town boasted a thriving community with numerous churches, businesses and institutions founded by free blacks. Lucille's family was extremely comfortable due to owning an entire block of real estate on Rome Street . Unfortunately, by the time of Lucille's birth in 1918 the family fortune had disappeared as a result of bad business deals made by her maternal uncles.
“Baby Lucille” was one of five children born to Alease Pankey. Her grandmother was a full-blood Blackfoot who was remembered for her spunky disposition and beautiful hair. “Mother Alease,” widowed early, struggled to keep her little family together during the economic turbulence of the early 20 th century. She recognized in her daughter a fierce intelligence and a gift for mathematics, and knew in her heart this child would mature into a successful woman. As early as 1938, Alease's instincts were proven correct when Lucille was selected as Class Speaker of her graduating class as Peabody High School .
Following graduation, Lucille found employment and continued her education. She met Army Sergeant Lee G. Butler, fell deeply in love and was married in 1942. The young couple moved frequently, first to Princeton , New Jersey then to Lowell , Massachusetts , and finally settled in Boston where they put down life-long roots.
They became active members of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church where Mr. Butler was a Deacon and member of the Financial Board. Lucille was Chairwoman of numerous groups and activities. She sponsored dinners, supported special programs and raised funds for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The Butler lives revolved around travel, church and volunteer activities. They did not have children.
In 1967, a hard blow struck Lucille when she lost her beloved husband to leukemia, but she continued on. His death did not quell her giving spirit. If anything, the generosity the two had shared continued and grew larger. She sponsored projects resulting in the remodeling of the church kitchen and the renovation of the pulpit. To honor the memory of a Peabody school chum's wife, Beverly Seaborne, she donated a set of candelabras and a piano.
She financially supported numerous national organizations, including the NAACP Boston Chapter, SCLC, the Billy Graham Campaign, the Jimmy Carter Center , the Indiana Foundation, the Children's Fund and the Salvation Army. Many other groups benefited from Mrs. Butler's pledges.
Aunt Lucille, as she was sentimentally referred to by Barbara, met and worked with may prominent leaders in the Civil Rights Movement; among them Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, co-founders of SCLC. Dr. Walker was pastor of Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg , VA and saw events taking place in Petersburg as something like a blueprint for the national civil rights struggle. Gillfield was the family's church home in Petersburg , and Barbara was baptized by Dr. Walker.
Lucille Butler was a leader respected and admired by all who knew her. In her position administering research grants at the New England Medical Center , she was recognized for her personal discipline and organizational skills. Her position at a Roxbury-based electric firm sharpened skills that later led to her appointment by City Administrator Paul Parks to Chief Fiscal Officer for The Model City Project in 1969. The fledgling program needed strong direction and a firm hand and Lucille Butler was an ideal choice. She set up bookkeeping systems, meticulously administered budgets and established procedures that sustained the agency.
Throughout her life, Mrs. Butler was a generous benefactor and dynamic agent for change. She sponsored numerous organizations for public good and actively worked for full enfranchisement of African Americans during a volatile time in our nation's history. “We who knew Lucille M. Pankey-
Butler were blessed by her presence in our lives,” said her niece. “With the establishment of this scholarship in her name and that of her husband, countless others will be blessed by her generosity. We who knew her miss her dearly, but take joy in knowing her spirit of generosity lives on.”
“The Boston Branch NAACP is honored to officially announce the establishment of the Lucille P. Butler Scholarship,” said Nancy Danier , Chairwoman of the branch's scholarship committee. “She touched the lives of many people and is one of the relatively unknown heroes of the civil rights movement. So, we are proud to extend her reach by offering students scholarships in her name.”
Please contact Shana Bryant, Chair of the Boston Branch Scholarship Committee, for more information at