William Henry Butler was the first Black elected official in Maryland, serving as Alderman on the Annapolis City Council from 1873 to 1875.
William Butler was a skilled carpenter and landowner who came to Annapolis in the 1860s. Over the years, he purchased over 25 properties in the City of Annapolis including 148 Duke of Gloucester Street in 1863. He was one of the wealthiest free blacks living in Annapolis at the time.
Butler was a dedicated civic leader and used his wealth and property ownership to build churches and schools following the Civil War and Emancipation. His civic achievements and wealth made him an attractive candidate to be Annapolis’ first African American Alderman, and he was selected by local Republican leaders to run for office in 1873.
Butler’s election to the City Council prompted great opposition. After his two years in office, the city would not elect another African American to the council until the mid-1880s, when Thomas Arrington Thompson started his two terms. Butler and Thompson paved the path for future black Maryland politicians, including William H. Butler, Jr., Butler’s son, a schoolteacher (elected in 1893), and businessman Wiley H. Bates (elected in 1897).
Butler is buried in St. Anne’s Cemetery, and the house on Duke of Gloucester still stands in relatively unaltered condition today.