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Major Archibald Butt was a trusted presidential aide and known hero aboard the doomed RMS Titanic.
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A graduate of the University of the South, Butt worked as a journalist for several years after finishing his education. He started out at the Louisville Courier Journal. After later moving to Washington, D.C., Butt became a correspondent for a series of southern newspapers in the nation’s capital city.
For a time, Butt worked in the Mexican Embassy for General Matt W. Ransom. He then joined the military during the Spanish-American War. Soon after the war ended, Butt served as a volunteer in the Philippines, rising to the rank of captain. He later served in Cuba before becoming an aide to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. Well regarded, Butt stayed on as an advisor when President William Howard Taft took office in 1909.
In 1912, Butt took a trip to Europe, which was supposed to be a vacation. But he caused a lot of speculation about his journey when he went to visit the Pope Pius X at the Vatican in late March. Butt, however, remained tight-lipped about the purpose of his visit with the press. A short time later, he decided to return to the United States, booking passage on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Butt was accompanied on this journey by his friend Francis Millet, a writer and an artist.
Edward J. Smith and railroad executive John B. Thayer.
Later that evening, around 11:40 p.m., the Titanic struck an iceberg. The vessel was damaged in the collision and began taking in water. As the crew prepared the lifeboats, Butt helped in the rescue efforts. One survivor, Renee Harris, told The New York Times of his heroism. Describing him as calm and collected, she said that he helped the sailors with the boats and lifted women inside them. He even stopped a man from entering one of the boats, saying “women will be attended to first or I’ll break every . . . bone in your body,” according Harris’s account.
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