By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Eugene Butler will make history on June 30 when he raises his right hand and officially becomes the first Black judge to serve in Lynchburg.
Butler, age 50, is a Washington D.C. native with more than 20 years of law experience. He is the son of a Methodist minister. The General Assembly approved his appointment on Feb. 22, in the closing days of this year’s session. He will serve as the first Black juvenile and domestic relations judge for the 24th Judicial District, which encompasses Lynchburg and the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell and Nelson.
“I think it really hits me when I talk to so many people, and they’re so happy for me and I realized, man, I’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Butler said in a recent News Advance interview.
Aaron Boone, Lynchburg public defender who has known Butler for 20 years, said the recent appointment is historically significant.
“The election of Butler in this district is going to make the judiciary more reflective of the community it serves,” Boone said.
Butler said his family moved a lot when he was young because his father is a Methodist pastor. His father is 81, and his mother, 74. “At the end of the day, I’m so thankful for them for paving the way for me for everything that they have done,” said Butler, who attended Washington & Lee Law School in Lexington, Va., and completed a couple of internships before he graduated in 1998.
Butler worked for an insurance defense firm in Alexandria.
Then, after talking with a friend of his from law school, he moved to Lynchburg to do court-appointed work, such as criminal and child support cases. He began taking cases in Campbell County and in the city.
For 13 years he worked as an attorney in the Division of Child Support Enforcement.
Butler ran for State Bar Council in 2019 and won the post in the 24th District in March 2019. He served as president of the Lynchburg Bar Association from 2019 to 2020.
Mary Chamberlin, an attorney for Petty, Livingston, Dawson and Richards, said Butler was a mentor to her and many younger members of the bar association.
“He is always our first phone call when we have questions and he’s always happy to answer questions,” Chamberlin said.
In 2021, Butler sent a letter to the chief judge to be considered as a substitute judge in the 24th District and was sworn in July 2021.
Patricia Gibbons, a retired attorney who practiced family law for 40 years, 30 of which were in Lynchburg wrote a letter on his behalf.
“I’m just elated. I hadn’t felt this strongly about a judgeship in a long time, but I feel like this guy is the perfect fit,” Gibbons said.
Reflecting on the path that led him to his current post, he said, “I tried to be like a role model and hope that just like before me, with my parents and other people, that people will look at that and say, ‘You know what, if Eugene Butler can do this, then anybody can do it.’”
PHOTO FROM NEWSADVANCE.COM