Dr. Judy Butler was born in Magnolia, Arkansas, a long time ago. She grew up near a college town, not unlike Carrollton. A sibling, David, was born into the Davis family in 1954. He died in 1967. Therefore, one might say that Dr. Butler suffers from the only-child syndrome. That's why she thinks she is the center of attention.
Dr. Butler's parents both worked, due to the burden of medical bills incumbent with David's life-long battle with a brain tumor. That makes her a latch-key kid, but fails to recognize that in her hometown, she was related to everybody and she did not do anything that somebody did not report to her parents.
It will not surprise anyone who knows her to learn that her life centered around family, school, and church. Summers were B-O-R-I-N-G! To keep their precocious daughter occupied, the Davis family sent her to summer camps, introduced her to the library, and insisted her music lessons continue through the summer. For at least one week every year, the family went somewhere together.
In school, she had the same teachers who had taught her mother and aunts and uncles. They expected her to be as smart as her relatives. She didn't know she had a choice, so she excelled, graduating with honors. Her senior year was full of activities: band, annual staff, clubs of all sorts, and, yes, boys. All of that came to an abrupt halt one December evening when the car she was driving crashed and tumbled down into a ravine. The emergency workers said she was dead. They did not know about her strong will and perseverance. She can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'' and that should be warning enough to her students.
Facing life as a cripple, i.e., handicapped, did not seem like the way she wanted to live. So, she didn't. They said she was blind; she was not. They said she would not walk again; she did. They said she was brain damaged; the jury is still out on that one. Ignoring the naysayers, little Judy set off to college, just as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Wanting to "get on with life," she finished in three years, got married, and started her first teaching position a week after turning 21. It was the 60's; it was the time of integration. Having worked on an Indian reservation one summer, she was familiar with prejudice, but her education on that topic had only just begun. She learned that people of color were not the only ones who were treated unfairly. Women rarely had the same opportunities as men, and being handicapped could easily prevent one from being considered for a lot of things, including graduate school. Today, one will have to look hard to find "handicapped" on her records, but one need not be around her for long to realize that she champions the underdog, that all people are important to her.
After three years in seminary, giving birth to a bouncing baby boy, and supporting her husband through graduate school, Dr. Butler returned to the classroom to teach social studies in a high school just outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas. She convinced her students that even though they were from the "boondocks" they could achieve like everyone else. Her work in that small high school caught the eye of a famous politician from the "spa" city, and in 1987 she accepted the offer to be an educational specialist at the Arkansas Department of Education, chairing the efforts in international education spawned by the work of the state's first lady, Hillary Clinton.
Over the next seven years, she went places she had only dreamed about, met people who she had only seen on television or in books, and did things that she did not realize she could do. While her professional career soared, her personal life fizzled, and her 20-year marriage ended in divorce. Like many other women, she added the role of single mother to her list of accomplishments.
The 1992-1993 school year was significant for a number of reasons. Her father died; her son graduated; Clinton moved on; her job turned into nothing more than bureaucratic paper- pushing. She had a paid leave of absence coming and she took it. She took it to accept an assistantship at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. She packed up all of her worldly goods and moved into a one-room apartment in Nashville, Tennessee.
Not wishing to tarnish her reputation, she finished her doctorate in record time and went off to a postdoctoral assignment at the University of Texas. In 1996, she moved to West Georgia. She came here because West Georgia has a reputation as one of the largest eacher-education programs in the nation. She learned, quickly, that size was not what drew her here. It was the people. The students and professors have become her extended family. If this web-page was big enough, all of their pictures would follow.