Remembering Ailene Butler
"People often wonder why a musician
is such a political activist. The answer: My Mother." - Roselyn
Ailene Roselyn Martin Robinson
Butler (nee Allen) was born December 16, 1916 in Americus, Georgia
and passed on to her reward on February 20, 2002. She was the thirteenth
child of Charles and Lula Semancy Allen (nee Spencer). The family
moved to Flint, Michigan when she was three years old. Ailene Butler
graduated from Northern High School in Flint, attended Sienna Heights
College in Adrian, and received her Mortuary Science degree from
Wayne State University in Detroit.
Ailene Butler became the first female mortician in the city of Flint
and the first woman to own and operate her own Funeral Home. She
was the first African-American woman elected to the Flint City Council,
elected to office in November 1973.
As a young woman, Ailene Butler successfully integrated the Young
Women's Christian Association in the city of Flint and became Flint's
first African-American Girl Scout Leader. She was the first woman
elected as Vice President and board member of the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People and assisted in the Creation
of the NAACP Credit Union, as well as serving as its first loan
Ailene Butler was Chairperson of the Social Programs Committee.
Through her tireless efforts on this committee, she was able to
obtain assistance for day care centers, the Opportunities Industrialization
Center and the Urban League On-The-Job-Training program just for
starters. She was in the forefront of the effort to combat drugs
and crime long before it became a national issue, pushing for education
and rehabilitation as the best solution.
Ailene Butler was appointed to the original Flint Mayor's Advisory
Committee, which established the Flint Human Relations Commission.
Ms. Butler helped establish and was elected first chairperson of
the Open Occupancy Committee whose work helped to make Flint the
first city in the United States to pass a fair housing law by popular
vote. She was co-founder and first chairperson of the National Black
women's Political Leadership Caucus of the State of Michigan.
Ailene Butler was the founder and first president of Flint's Democratic
Colored League of Women Voters and Chairperson of the Michigan State
Caucus. She was active in the Women's Division of the Democratic
Party and contributed immensely to Fundraising efforts to provide
the Genesee County Democratic Party with a home.
Ailene Butler has been awarded the Annual Business Award from the
Flint Club of the National Association of Negro and Business and
Professional Women as "The Most Outstanding Woman of the Year."
She has received the "Women of Wayne Headliner Award and the Zeta
Phi Beta Sorority Woman of the Year Award. She has received recognition
from: the Governor of the state of Michigan, the Common Council
of the City of Detroit, the City Council of the City of Lansing,
the Michigan Department of Education, Mott Community College, the
International Institute, the Genesee Area Skill Center as well as
a special tribute from the Michigan House of Representatives and
numerous other awards and certificates of appreciation
Ailene Butler was active in the Flint Urban League, the Genesee
County Funeral Director's Association, the Flint Branch of Child
and Family Services of Michigan and many other organizations. She
chaired the Foreign Mission of the Foss Avenue Baptist Church, assisting
in missions to drought-stricken Africa. She was Chairperson of the
Mother Board of Canaan Baptist Church and was most deserving of
the honors bestowed on her by the Concerned Pastors for Social Action.
Ailene Butler received a "Dedicated Service Award" for her contributions
to African-American History and Culture in the Flint Community from
the Great Lakes District Association Women's Auxiliary and has been
honored with special recognition by Senator Don Reigle and Congressman
Dale Kildee in the Congressional Record. Her photo and some of her
awards have been exhibited in the Sloan Museum of African -American
History. She has been nominated to become a "Distinguished Fellow
of Northern High School" and her photograph will hang in the Viking
Hall at Northern High School.
Although retired, Ailene Butler never stopped helping. She received
a Certificate of Appreciation for outstanding service to the residents
of Court Street Village. She served as an inspiration to her community
continually exemplifying the motto of the Nation Black Women's Club
Association, "Lifting as We Climb".
Ailene Butler leaves to celebrate her life a daughter and son-in
law, Mr. and Mrs. David and Roselyn Leonard of New Orleans; two
step daughters and son-in law, Joyce Butler and Mr. and Mrs. Wilbert
and Marian Martin, of Flint; eight grandchildren, Arlee Roselyn
Leonard of New York, Autumn Rose-Sarah Leonard of Boston, David
Stormborn Martin Leonard of New Orleans, Mr. and Mrs. Tui and Adrian
Wright of Canoga Park, CA, Mr. and Mrs. Wilbert and Debbie Martin,
Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Paul and LaShannon Martin of Atlanta, Melanie
Martin of Gary, Indiana and Alicia Martin of Flint; seven great
grand children, Jordan Adonai and Brendan David Biko Wright of Canoga
Park, CA, Christopher, Dia, Nicholas and Ayanna Martin of Atlanta
and DiAriyanne of Flint; her beloved nieces Marylou Woodward, Marsha
Shines, Sandra Holmes Allen, and numerous other nieces nephews and
her dear friend Mrs. Mazelle Baron, Friends of the Thursday Afternoon
Club and the Canaan Baptist Church family.