DR. WILLIS BUTLER / 1918-2008
Longtime doctor protested U.S. wars
Dr. Willis Butler practiced medicine in Hawaii for more than 50 years and worked just as long as an advocate for peace and a critic of the federal government's penchant for war.
He was one of the first doctors to join the staff of Kaiser Permanente clinic after it was organized in the 1960s. "He had a lot to do with the way they practiced medicine, with the emphasis on family medicine," said Ah Quon McElrath, a former ILWU social worker.
Butler, 89, died Jan. 14 at St. Francis Hospice.
He continued to work in the medical profession after retiring from Kaiser, with the state Department of Health AIDS prevention program and in mediation of court cases involving medical claims.
Butler was one of the founders of the Hawaii Committee to End the War in Vietnam.
"The first time we met in 1965, we were preparing for a debate with Adm. Harry Felt," said retired University of Hawaii professor Oliver Lee. "I was younger than he, from the mainstream of liberal politics, and I was impressed that he felt confident to tackle the commander of Pacific Forces," Lee recalled. Lee and Butler remained at the forefront of anti-war activities during that era.
"He was very well read, well informed," said Lee. "He knew so much about foreign policy. He had an analytical mind and was not influenced by any president or State Department."
Butler was later prominent in opposition to American involvement in Central American politics, and was a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, a national opponent of developing nuclear weapons. In recent years his letters to editors made clear he did not like the invasion of Iraq and the influence of industrialists on the government.
"He contributed to society as a physician and through his politics. He worked for society on a level way beyond money," said his son Bruce Butler.
Butler was born in New Orleans and received his medical degree from Tulane University. He came to Hawaii in 1952 and worked on Molokai, treating plantation workers, where he forged a long connection with the ILWU and its late leader Jack Hall.
He is survived by sons Chris, Kurt and Bruce; daughter Penny Warnholtz of Eugene, Ore.; and five grandchildren.