Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mounce Gore Butler (1849-1917)

Mounce Gore "M.G." Butler, from the December 4, 1905 edition of the NY Tribune.

   One term U.S. Representative from Tennessee Mounce Gore Butler is without a doubt one of the most obscure congressmen on record, and, like Arphaxed Loomis and Calvary Morris before him, was one of a number of "faceless" strange-named congressmen I've managed to happen across. While Loomis and Morris eventually had photos of themselves come to light, the absence of a picture of Mounce Butler was something I'd become accustomed to. Two or three times a year (over the past decade or so) I would begin a search of my usual newspaper archives and book haunts in the hope that a picture of him would come to light, but, inevitably, my search would always end in frustration.....I was certain that this congressman (whose first name sort of sounds like a candy-bar) would forever be without a face to place with his unusual name!
  With that introduction out of the way, I'm extremely pleased to announce a picture of this obscure congressman has finally been located, via the December 4, 1905 edition of the New York Tribune!! Early yesterday I was doing research on another faceless strange name congressman, Mial Eben Lilly of Pennsylvania when I stumbled across a page in said paper which featured over three dozen photographs of newly elected U.S. Representatives. Among these men was the aforementioned Mr. Lilly, and.....wait for it.....Mounce Gore Butler!! After more than a decade of searching, I'm quite confident in stating that the above portrait is likely the first time a picture of Mr. Butler is available online!
  A lifelong resident of Gainesboro, Tennessee, Mounce Gore Butler was born in that town on May 11, 1849, one of four children born to Thomas Harvey and Mary Gore Butler. Butler's odd first name "Mounce" was shared by several of his relatives, and as a youth attended schools local to the place of his birth. He would go on to study at the Old Philomath Academy in Jackson County and later the Cumberland University, being admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1871. Butler married in the late 1870s to Nannie DeWitt (1850-1927) with whom he would have one son, Bailey Clifton Butler (1877-1970).
  Once admitted to practice Butler launched a law practice in Gainesboro, operating here for a number of years. In 1872 he was selected as a delegate to the Tennessee Democratic state convention, and would serve as a delegate to every democratic state convention until 1916. After two decades of practicing law in Gainesboro Butler was named as Attorney General for Tennessee's  Fifth Judicial circuit in 1894. He served in this post until 1902, and two years later received the Democratic nomination for U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 4th district. Butler won the election that November, defeating Republican candidate W.B. Pickering by a vote of 13, 356 to 11, 596.
  Taking his seat at the start of the 1905-07 term, Butler was named to the house committees on Elections #2 and Reform in the Civil Service. He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1906, the nomination instead going to one Cordell Hull (1871-1955) later to gain prominence as a twelve-term representative, U.S. Senator from Tennessee, U.S. Secretary of State under Franklin Roosevelt from 1933-45 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945.
  Following his brief time in Congress Mounce G. Butler returned to Gainesboro, where he would practice law until his death on February 13, 1917 at age 67. Butler was survived by his wife and son, with Butler and his wife being interred at the Gainesboro Cemetery. Research has also shown that Butler is a distant relation to Vice-President and Tennessee resident Al Gore, and their genealogical connection can be viewed here.

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