BUTLER, ANNETTE GARNER ( 23 June 23 1944 – 31 December 31 2018), civil rights lawyer and civic activist, was born in Cleveland to Rudolph and Minnie (Evans) Garner.  She graduated fourth in her class from East High School in 1962 and from Flora Stone Mather College of Western Reserve University (CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY) in 1966.  After her graduation from CLEVELAND- MARSHALL LAW SCHOOL in 1970, she worked for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare as a civil rights specialist, and in 1974, she joined the firm of Guren and Merritt.

Butler co-founded the Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Cleveland. In 1974, she charged Cleveland Municipal Court and its 13 judges with race and sex discrimination in hiring; in 1975, the court signed a consent decree to follow fair employment practices and paid Butler’s attorneys’ fees.

Butler made news when she was elected the first female president of the CITY CLUB OF CLEVELAND in December 1978. In November 1979, she arranged the only debate between Mayor Dennis Kucinich and challenger GEORGE VOINOVICH  She was an enthusiastic Republican, moderating a club forum wearing a “Bush for President” button in June 1980. 

Butler was appointed in October 1980 by U.S. District Judge FRANK JOSEPH BATTISTI to the Office on School Monitoring and Community Relations when the CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS undertook court-ordered desegregation.  She was deputy director of legal affairs and community relations for the office. 

In 1982, she was chosen assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, civil division, a position she held for 24 years.  Governor James Allen Rhodes appointed her to the Board of Trustees of CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY in 1982, where she championed the cause of minority student enrollment and retention.  The university named her its Distinguished Black Alumna in 1989.       

Butler returned to the City Club Forum in September 2008 to debate Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason in an unsuccessful effort to unseat him.  She charged his administration with racial disparities in sentencing criminals.  

In November 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich appointed Butler to the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas; she lost the seat in the November 2012 election.  She then served as an assistant law director for the city of Cleveland.  She also served on the Cuyahoga County Board of Revision (2011), and the American Arbitration Associations’ Mediation Panel (2013).  

Butler’s community service earned her awards from the Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs of Cleveland, the Cleveland Jaycees, and the Cuyahoga County Bar Association.

She married Daniel L. Butler in 1968; they divorced in 1977.  Butler had two children: Christopher Daniel Butler and Kimberley Annette Butler.   

Marian Morton


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