With a heavy heart, we report that the great Jim Butler passed away Tuesday, March 3rd.

Butler Funeral Homes (unknown if related) is handling his services.

James “Jim” W. Butler, 84, of Springfield, died at 8:17 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at Memorial Medical Center.

Jim was born June 9, 1935, in Jacksonville, the son of James Russell and Juanita Ruth Myers Butler. He married Nancy J. Baxley in June of 1990 at First United Methodist Church in Springfield.

Jim graduated from Lanphier High School and proudly served his country in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. He was a retired Sergeant for the Illinois State Police and was previously certified as an airline mechanic, but always wanted to be a pilot. Jim was president of the Sangamon County Rifle Association, a member of the Lincoln Gun Club, and a lifetime member of the NRA. He was passionate about gun rights and enjoyed riding motorcycles.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

Jim is survived by his wife, Nancy (Baxley) Butler of Springfield; siblings, Betty Richardson of Springfield, Donald Butler of Eugene, OR, and Louise (husband, Ken) Klaviter of Balch Springs, TX; and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Visitation: Family will receive friends from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at Butler Funeral Home-Springfield, 900 S. 6th St., Springfield.

Graveside Ceremony: 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at Camp Butler National Cemetery with military honors provided by the Interveterans Burial Detail of Sangamon County and the Department of Defense.

Memorial contributions may be made to the NRA, 11250 Waples Mill Rd., Fairfax, VA 22030.

Jim Butler organized and lead the Sangamon County Rifle Association for many years, and before that, the Sangamon County Grassroots Committee of the Illinois State Rifle Association.

In fact, many might even describe Jim Butler as the father (or maybe even patron saint) of grassroots gun activism in Sangamon County, Illinois.

I met Jim Butler when I was just a young kid just out of college.  We met not on a traffic stop or an arrest, but at a Sangamon County Grassroots Committee meeting.  This was either just after he had retired from a distinguished career with the Illinois State Police – or perhaps as he was winding down his career.   Either way, we liked one another from the first time we met, and over a couple of years, became really good friends.

And eventually, we became almost like family.

Jim had a passion for freedom and liberty.  I admired that.

What I really admired was that even though he didn’t have to, he worked tirelessly so other everyday Americans could defend themselves and their families with firearms.   After all, with his retired status from working at the Illinois State Police, he could still carry a personal defense tool.  But he didn’t forget the rest of us.

His selfless dedication to gun rights was endless.  In fact, it was a passion and he brought a lot of outstanding people into his orbit too.

He enjoyed more than activism, too.  Jim liked to teach as well.  He even joined us at a few of our classes before some close friends and I were known as GSL Defense Training.  By then Jim and I were like brothers from different mothers.  He and my fellow trainer and “brother” of sorts John Naese had served as Directors on the ISRA board for a time.  Jim and Frank Wright, the just-retired FBI special agent shared the bond that true-blue career cops always have.  And ditto for Jeff Schwarm.

Jim Butler brought a lot of real word experience and good advice to classes he helped us with, along with his natural ability to connect with everyday people.  Frankly, people generally would never have guessed his career as a Trooper.

And that brings us to one fateful day on the range long ago, in a class where a demo went terribly and horribly wrong.

We were doing a live-fire demo.  Well, “we” as in me.  Shoot a milk jug at about 12 feet with a handgun.  Easy enough, right?

Good friend Jim gave me a rash of good-natured ribbing immediately before I took the shot in front of dozens of students and staff.  Moments later, I flubbed that single shot that I would ordinarily make with my eyes closed.  Badly.  Really badly.  Badly enough that I missed the (sizeable) target and shot the bench it rested upon.

I’ve tried to forget that humiliating day, but something tells me I missed that shot not once, but twice.  Both times with equally cringe-worthy and hurtful results to that range table.

Oops.  Sorry Ron.

No problem.  Even with everyone watching, stuff happens, right?

So I deferred to Jim, Mr. ISP SWAT cop, sniper, firearms instructor and good friend to show me how to do it.  I poked back at him a little.  After all, what are friends for?  And much to my amazement, he missed the same shot as well.  Equally badly.  That poor bench.  It needed an Israeli Battle Dressing, but we didn’t have those back then.

I think we both laughed so hard we almost cried.  And we changed the demo after that.

At the same time, we learned something about one another that day.  While I never brought that story up around folks, mostly out of shame, I can’t tell you how many times I recall Jim fondly telling the whole story, laughing just as hard at my momentary self-imposed humiliation as his own.  Even as recently as last year.  Thanks buddy.

Working together for gun rights.

He liked me and the work I did for gun rights, maybe even admired the work we did on our side of the state.  Lord knows we admired his work in the capital city.  And it was humbling for someone as distinguished as Jim to appreciate the work we initially did in Champaign County and later, across Illinois.

We began working together even more closely when we incorporated Sangamon County content on some pages of our GunNews Magazine.  Meanwhile, Jim and his Sangamon County team would distribute hundreds of copies at first, and eventually thousands in Illinois’ capital city and surrounding areas.

And he trusted me too.

He would submit a column each month and I’d make him proud tweaking his writing to make it more readable and sometimes a bit more entertaining.

Years later, when Sangamon County Rifle Association formally folded into Guns Save Life, it was Jim’s request that the chapter location be referred to as the Sangamon County chapter of Guns Save Life.   And so it is.

He came out to that first SCGSL meeting where we swamped a local restaurant with well over 100 people and Jim just beamed with pride like a doting grandfather seeing his first grandbaby right after the delivery.  After all, he worked for many years to build the foundation of support that made success possible.

Within a month or two, we settled in at SCHEELS and the Sangamon County GSL meeting has consistently turned out 100-150 people, sometimes more.  It has become our largest and most popular chapter.

Over time, Jim’s attendance flagged as his and his wife’s health deteriorated, but he came out a few times late last year to enjoy the meetings from the audience side of things.  He clearly remained just as proud as ever of what his work had become.

Now, learning of Jim’s passing reminds me of the words of George Patton: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

Indeed.  Thank God for Jim Butler.   His was a life rich, long and well-lived.  He surely has earned a higher place in Heaven.

We have a lot of truly outstanding people in the Guns Save Life organization, but people like Jim Butler are truly civil rights giants among men.

4 thoughts on “IN MEMORIAM: JIM BUTLER Services Wednesday, March 11th”
  1. Now, learning of Jim’s passing reminds me of the words of George Patton: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

  2. Although I never met Jim, I am certain his friendship would have been rewarding in many ways. Thanks, John, for sharing his background.

  3. Thank you very much for such a wonderful tribute to my Uncle Jim.
    He was very proud of what he did both on the force and as a civilian for the right to carry. He loved to share his gun knowledge. Guns were always his passion. My very earliest memories of him were the smell of Hoppe’s and his lead splatters on the table when he molded his own bullets.
    My mother, his sister worried he was going to end up being targeted as a radical with his articles and gun rights activities.
    It warms my heart to see he was held in such high esteem.
    Thank you.
    Deborah Wright

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