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Butterfield donates his papers to UNC

Posted on January 8, 2022

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U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield visits UNC’s Louis Round Wilson Library on Jan. 3 to examine some of his donated collection and meet with library staff. He’s shown explaining the history of some items in his memorabilia to Chaitra Powell and Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.

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U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield visits UNC’s Louis Round Wilson Library on Jan. 3 to examine some of his donated collection and meet with library staff. He’s shown explaining the history of some items in his memorabilia to Chaitra Powell and Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.

dwilson@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7818

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, who announced in November that he’ll retire when his current term in Congress ends, has donated his personal and professional papers to UNC-Chapel Hill’s university library.

Butterfield, D-Wilson, has represented North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District since 2004.

“These documents, photos, ephemera and more chronicle not only his years in politics — including many items from President Obama’s historic terms — but also that of his own family and history of his hometown, Wilson,” said Carly Miller, media relations manager at the university.

Butterfield has been a civil rights activist, lawyer, judge and N.C. Supreme Court justice prior to serving in the House.

“The material that Rep. Butterfield is donating includes the history of Wilson, North Carolina, especially the evolution of Wilson’s Black community... He has materials from his legal career where he worked on important voting rights cases in North Carolina...,” said UNC archivist Nick Graham.

Behind the scenes, Butterfield has been a meticulous record-keeper, accumulating boxes of documents from each period in his life.

“I’ve always been history-minded,” Butterfield said in a university news release.

Butterfield’s collection will be held in the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library.

“I’m 74 years old, approaching 75 years old, and I know it’s time for me to release this valuable trove of information to somebody who can appreciate it, who can preserve it and share it,” Butterfield told UNC.

In Congress, Butterfield used his camera to document his domestic and international travels.

“I’m known in Congress as the photographer, particularly in the Congressional Black Caucus,” Butterfield told the university. “I’ve taken over 20,000 pictures. After all of these years, I just had a whole mountain of information.”

Butterfield was able to use some of his time in Washington and access to important events to document parts of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Chaitra Powell, curator of the Southern Historical Collection, said Butterfield’s collection of items from the Obama presidency is unique.

“It’s fascinating to see this perspective on a historic presidency, all eight years of it,” Powell said.

Graham said students and faculty members are eager to begin researching the Butterfield collection.
“The material that Rep. Butterfield is donating includes the history of Wilson, North Carolina, especially the evolution of Wilson’s Black community,” Graham said. “He has materials from his legal career where he worked on important voting rights cases in North Carolina.”

Butterfield told the university he’s pleased that his collection will be preserved and that others will benefit from it.

“History in the African American community is very rich, but it needs to be preserved,” Butterfield said. “Those of us who possess these nuggets of history will be silenced one day, and unless we pass it along, and in an appropriate medium, it will be forever lost. We won’t be able to preserve all of them, but we can certainly preserve as many as we can capture.”

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