Texas evangelist and philanthropist Howard E. Butt Jr. dies

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Howard E. Butt Jr.  at his home in San Antonio on Oct. 18, 2004. Photo courtesy of Lisa Krantz/San Antonio Express-News

Howard E. Butt Jr. at his home in San Antonio on Oct. 18, 2004. Photo courtesy of Lisa Krantz/San Antonio Express-News

(RNS) Howard E. Butt Jr., the Texas evangelist and radio personality who was expected to take over his family’s successful grocery business but instead devoted his life to Christian causes, has died.

The cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease. Butt died Sunday (Sept. 11) at his San Antonio home. He was 89.

Butt was the former head of the H.E. Butt Foundation, which takes as its mission “the renewal of the Church,” and runs retreat programs and a Christian camp for children.

He was perhaps best known, though, as the fatherly voice of one-minute radio spots, called “The High Calling of Our Daily Work,” in which he gently preached that people should make Christianity the cornerstone of their life’s work.

With evangelist Billy Graham he created the Layman’s Leadership Institute, which coached businesspeople to speak on how faith can influence leadership. Butt also served on the board of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

“Howard E. Butt, Jr., was a great friend of my father’s and served alongside him in ministry for many years,” said Franklin Graham, in a statement.

“He realized that every Christian is called to serve, not just those who have positions in ministry,” Graham continued. “For this reason, he was an early pioneer in the area of workplace ministry, encouraging the body of believers — whether they be businessmen, doctors, carpenters or teachers — to see their work as their calling and to do it as unto the Lord.”

Butt’s parents had expected him to run the family business, the H-E-B chain of grocery stores that is now valued at about $11 billion. But Butt, rising in the ranks of the company, found his true calling in ministry. In the 1940s, he became a lay leader and began speaking at revivals across the nation.

His younger brother, Charles Butt, took over the business named for their father, Howard E. Butt Sr.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of my brother, Howard,” Charles Butt said in a statement. “His decades of inspired leadership, philanthropy and humanitarian efforts will forever be missed by our family and those he impacted across the U.S.”

Butt’s memorial service will be held Saturday at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio.