Howard E. Butt Jr., the eldest son of H-E-B founder Howard E. Butt Sr., died Sunday at his home in Kerrville due to complications related to Parkinson’s disease. The former president of The H. E. Butt Foundation and H-E-B board vice chair was 89.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of my brother, Howard,” H-E-B CEO Charles Butt said in a news release. “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 was born in Kerrville on Sept. 8, 1927, making him the oldest of five Butt children who own the H-E-B grocery chain, which is the largest family-owned company in Texas. The Baylor University alumnus grew up in the food business founded by his grandmother, Florence, in 1905. He married his wife, Barbara Dan Gerber, soon after graduating with a business degree in 1947.
Butt was known for his spiritual endeavors and philanthropy work. He created the Layman’s Leadership Institute with evangelist Billy Graham, which hosted national faith-based programs for business professionals. President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the first Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity for his efforts on behalf of workers. Butt took presidency of the H.E. Butt Foundation in 1982, heading one of the earliest private and philanthropic foundations in Texas.
Aside from his brother Charles, Butt Jr. is survived by his sister Eleanor Butt Crook; his wife Barbara Dan Gerber; his daughter Deborah Dan Rogers; his two sons Howard Butt III and Stephen Butt; and his eight grandchildren.