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Foundling sent to Norfolk City Home, 1923

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Foundling sent to Norfolk City Home, 1923

Posted: 22 Nov 2005 6:06PM GMT
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Butts
From a Pittsburgh, PA newspaper article by George R. Plagenz c. 1980:

"The old lady who had brought the 7-week-old black infant to the hospital had found it abandoned in a circus ground in Norfolk, Va. The doctors first discovered that it had pneumonia. Then they learned it was blind. . . . The little foundling was sent to Norfolk City Home and was given the name of William Butts by the old people who brought the boy up for the first six years of his life.

They read the Bible to him at every opportunity so that by the time he left the home he knew the book of Revelation by heart.

But at the school for the blind, where he was taken when he was 6, they said he was uneducable. He was moved to a detention home for juvenile delinquents. The other boys there thought he was crazy because whenever things got bad, Billy would always say, "Let us pray."

William Butts persevered. He graduated from high school and then college. He became a Baptist minister. When he was 48, he received his doctorate from Columbia University.

He received a faculty appointment at Virginia State College in Norfolk where he taught philosophy, religion and the history of civilization. The campus was not far from the circus grounds where he was abandoned as a baby.

William Butts also became an accomplished bass baritone singer. He performed on more than one occasion at Carnegie Hall in New York.

He was now William Butts, Ph.D. Actually, the Rev. William Butts, Ph.D. Preaching was always his first love. "I want to inspire people with faith in themselves as creatures of God," he said. "When a man knows he is God's creature and that God is watching over his efforts, failure doesn't mean disillusion. Because of his faith, he gets and starts again."

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