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Pages from Michael Butler's Journal


During the 1968 Democratic Convention several of us got together at Oak Brook, where I lived in a house called "Natoma." Michael Gifford, Fred Hampton, Tom Smothers, Peter Yarrow, and myself. We were joined by several members of our entourages, in my case Robert Peitscher. Each one of us had our own constituencies and causes. We felt that we had to meet in person to see if some platform could be put together to express first, our concern for the state of the nation and second, what should be done about it. Michael was concerned about education. Fred Hampton focused on civil rights. Tommy Smothers was embroiled in the defense of freedom of speech. Peter Yarrow had long been an advocate against poverty. And I was concerned about the existence of a dialogue between the generations.

All of us felt that the time of revolution was at hand in America. This was a real threat, greatly feared by the Establishment, who wanted a continuation of the status quo. We, of the Movement also a greatly feared the mood of the country. We contemplated the real possibility of the rise of fascism or some equally repressive form of government. We truly believed that we could do something about this polarization. We were certain that flower power could prevail. Love would win over all and we were messengers in unique positions to do something positive.

We commandeered the Board Room of the Butler Company. For hours, each of us held forth either expressing or listening to the ideas of our separate points of view. None of us was successful in convincing the group that our cause was paramount. Each stubbornly held forth our individual beliefs. Finally, out of exhaustion and exasperation, we decided to adjourn to "Natoma" for something to eat. There, as we were in the greenhouse having a drink, we were joined by my father, Paul Butler. He was in all aspects the epitome of a military-industrial leader. A former cavalry officer who believed all that was good came from that philosophy, his fortune was inherited from a family of such persuasion. Our talk continued in his presence, again without a common cause. As we prepared to adjourn to the dining room, Dad said, "Wait a minute! You do have a common ground, peace. Without peace, all of your concerns are for naught. If you don't have peace, you cannot do anything about your concerns."

Peace won the night and because of a hawk who made me remember Eisenhower's last speech. We finished dinner, thanked Father for his advice and the meeting was over. Peter and I went to New Mexico on a casting expedition. Michael returned to New York City. And Tommy went back to his wars with CBS. I never saw Fred Hampton again. He was assassinated by a police squad raid in Chicago.

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