Dr. Lindley Smith Butler, son of Reginald Alton Butler and Martha Julia Smith Butler, born June 15, 1939, died at Friends Homes, Greensboro, NC on April 12, 2022.
Lindley lived a full and glorious life of curiosity, exploration, playfulness, and dedication. He will be deeply missed.
He found meaning in the past, knowing from an early age that he wanted to be a historian. He earned his Ph.D. in history at UNC Chapel Hill and became an accomplished North Carolina historian, publishing many books and articles, including his magnum opus, A History of North Carolina in the Proprietary Era, 1629-1729, which he held in his hands a few weeks before he died. His explorations and advocacy for the history and culture of his home Rockingham County led to preservation of the Wright Tavern, archaeological excavations along the Dan River and in his beloved home of 51 years, North Fork Farm, and the founding of the Museum and Archives of Rockingham County (MARC), among countless other contributions.
Lindley was a devoted and inspiring teacher, reaching thousands of students over nearly 30 years as Historian-in-Residence at Rockingham Community College. His teaching was infectious, as he brought history to life and made it relevant today. His teaching career began as an intern at High Point High School where he met his future wife, Lelia T Clinard, as a student in his class. He waited patiently for her to graduate from college, and they were married on March 5, 1966, the beginning of a beautiful 56 years of marriage. T and Lindley began their married life on an archaeological dig in Israel, the first of many international excursions woven throughout their lives together. Through her, he became a convinced member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). T and Lindley were founding members of the Rockingham County Friends Meeting where they worshiped and built community for more than 50 years.
Lindley loved water and spent much of his life on, in, or around water. He grew up on the banks of the Dan River in Leaksville (now Eden), making his own boats and navigating up and down the waterway as a boy. His early athletics and later exercise regimen included a lifetime of swimming. His vacations revolved around coastal excursions where he built sandcastles, rode waves, and sailed boats. His hobbies involved canoeing, tubing, and sailing on waterways near and far. He served as Scoutmaster for his sons’ troop, wove water-based activities into the troop culture, and became a decorated leader, earning the Distinguished Eagle. He was the lead historian on the recovery of Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck project where he blended scuba diving on the site with detailed excavation of historical records to make the unequivocal link between artifacts, dates, and the infamous pirate. He brought his love of water to Rockingham County, serving as a co-founder of the award-winning Dan River Basin Association (DRBA), a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of culture and nature throughout the bistate region, which has established numerous parks, trails, and river accesses. He was instrumental in advocating for and establishing the Mayo River State Park, a crowning achievement in preservation and the impetus for his induction into the Order of the Longleaf Pine by Governor Roy Cooper.
Finally, Lindley was a devoted and loving husband, father, and grandfather. His children had the privilege of growing up with an engaged father who supported and guided them, celebrated their accomplishments and joys, took great pride in their pursuits, and played, laughed, and generally had a good time with them. He shared a love of international travel, food, movies, art, music, games, UNC basketball, and his adored collies, all loves which live on in his children and grandchildren today.
He is survived by his brother, Robert Alton Butler, his loving wife, T Butler, his sons, Thomas Lindley and William Hale Butler, their wives, Gloria Estes Butler and Rachel Atkin Christensen, grandsons, Alexander James Christensen Butler and Evan Joseph Christensen Butler, Fiona, the last in a long line of beloved collies, and numerous nephews and nieces.
A memorial will be held at 10:30 am on Saturday, June 18, 2022, at Mayo River State Park, 500 Old Mayo Park Road, Mayodan, NC 27027, at the main pavilion shelter area. It is important to carpool if at all possible as parking is limited at the park. Feel free to bring your own outdoor chairs and dress casually to enjoy the park afterward.
In lieu of flowers, the family would be honored to have donations made in Lindley’s memory to DRBA (https://www.danriver.org) or the MARC (https://www.themarconline.org/donate.html).
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