Mary Elizabeth Butt Educational Fund


Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt

Mary Elizabeth Butt was a true advocate and stalwart for the developmentally disabled over her entire lifetime – especially children. We honor her work and legacy by naming our educational fund after her. A philanthropist in every sense of the word, she has been a true inspiration to all of us at PART. Notably, Ms. Butt, received the first Yellow Rose Award by the Parent’s Association for the Retarded in Texas in 1981.

Mary Elizabeth Butt was a prominent Texas philanthropist and wife of HEB Grocery Company founder Howard Edward Butt Sr.

Mary Elizabeth started the State Crippled Children’s Program using her dining room as an office. She also served as chairwoman of the Cameron County Child Welfare Board. In addition, she started the first tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment program in the region; and also purchased the first equipment used to test the hearing and vision of schoolchildren.

In 1934, the Butts formed the H. E. Butt Foundation, one of the first charitable organizations in Texas. The foundation focused on funding public school programs, establishing libraries and constructing recreational facilities.[1] Mary Butt served as its president.

In 1940, the Butt family moved to Corpus Christi, Texas where she organized the local branches of the YWCA; the Nueces County home for the aged; the Nueces County Tuberculosis Hospital; and the local branch of the American Cancer Society. She also established the Mary Bethune Day Nursery which addressed shortfalls in access to day care for African-American children.

In 1949, she along with Dr. Robert Sutherland (director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health founded by Ima Hogg in 1940) and Margaret Scarbrough (wife of Austin retailer Lemuel Scarbrough and founder of the Scarbrough Foundation), organized and hosted the first Conference of Texas Foundations and Trusts which coordinated philanthropic giving so as to avoid duplication and promoted the exchange ideas and strategies.

Texas became the first state to have such an organization and the model was duplicated in other states. The Foundation quickly blossomed from ten mostly family-sponsored organizations at inception to 48 organizations in 1956. The organization (now known as the Conference of Southwest Foundations) presently consists of 200 member organizations in a seven-state area.

In 1953, she helped to establish the Hilltop Hospital which treated tuberculosis patients and eventually serving five years as the chairman of its board. In 1954, the Butts established the H. E. Butt Foundation Camp located on the Frio River. As she was particularly dedicated to the care of emotionally disturbed children, she developed a camping program for specifically for their care.

As of 2012, the camp continues to serve, without cost, over 20,000 campers annually and is also the site of the Laity Lodge, a prominent center of Christian learning founded by their son, Howard E. Butt Jr.

In 1955, she was appointed by Texas Governor Allan Shivers to the governing board of Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools (later the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation). She served as the only woman member of the board for 18 years being appointed by six different governors.

Please donate to the Mary Elizabeth Butt Educational Fund today. Thank you!