‘Butch wanted to be in Natchez’: Longtime friend reflects on former mayor’s impact and legacy
Published 5:48 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2023
NATCHEZ — Former Natchez Mayor Larry L. “Butch” Brown, who died Tuesday night at his home here, will be laid to rest in the Natchez City Cemetery on Thursday.
Funeral services will be Thursday at the First Presbyterian Church by the Rev. Joan Gandy at noon. Visitation will precede the service from 10 a.m. to noon in Stratton Chapel at the church.
Burial will follow at the Natchez City Cemetery.
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Friends for more than 40 years, Natchez attorney Walter Brown, reminisced about his friendship and his time spent working with Butch Brown.
“His campaign slogan in ’96 when he ran his campaign was ‘I know I’m not perfect, but I get things done.’ That about sums Butch up,” Brown said.
Brown said Butch came from a humble background, “which he spoke of often. But he was a man of vision and energy and had an entrepreneurial spirit that benefitted the people of Natchez and the state because he was so bold and so willing to jump in and try to make things better,” Brown said.
Butch Brown earned a business management degree from Southern Mississippi “and he understood you have to have good managers and good employees and you have to listen to them. Butch did that, particularly to his department heads,” Brown said. “They made their arguments and he listened to them — Willie Huff, Richard Burke and me. Not unlike Mayor Dan Gibson, he would take on project after project.”
Brown recalled traveling to Washington, D.C., with Butch, who was seeking $30 million for the bluff stabilization project.
“We were all skeptical that we would get $30 million — he always took a team with him — but he got it. The federal courthouse, the convention center, the visitor center — he came up with the ideas when we thought they couldn’t be done.
“He looked at the federal budget as his budget. He said, ‘I don’t want what’s on the table, but I want all of the crumbs.’ ”
Brown said Butch made it a point to stay close to Natchez’s congressional delegation, “particularly our two senators. I was with him when he sent to see Trent Lott once. I remember Trent Lott telling one of his staff members, ‘Just give Butch what he wants. I’ve got to run off in a few minutes.’ I mean, he said exactly that.”
Brown said often overlooked was Butch Brown’s role after Katrina.
In 2001, Butch was appointed executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
“Haley Barbour gets most of the credit for rebuilding after Katrina, and he deserves it. But Butch had a large part in it, too. The highway department was building new roads and bridges and Butch spend a lot of time down there overseeing that,” Brown said. “He wanted things to be as perfect as they could be.
“Butch expected a lot from people. Another thing he would say to people who worked with him was ‘I’ll work you like a mule, but I’ll show you like a showhorse.’ ”
Butch Brown suffered a stroke in 2015 while on a trip to Paris, Brown said.
“The mayor of New York was sending every municipal official he could think of to Paris at his expense. Butch went to that and came down with a stroke. He was convinced that he could beat it because of his dogged determination and belief in himself. Little by little, it got more and more serious, but he lasted eight years after that, probably because he was Butch and he was not going to give up.
“He beat everything — cancer, COVID, strokes. He was tough and resolute in everything he did, including his illness.
“I would go by and see him and he would be watching the news. It may be hard to believe, but Butch was well read and he kept up with everything,” Brown said. “I had one person in Washington — a consultant — tell me Butch Brown had the stature to be a United States Senator, as well as the intellect and experience, but Butch wanted to be in Natchez. ”