Tom Butt
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  Cecilia King Butt in Her Own Words
March 6, 2024

On what would have been her 102nd birthday today, March 6, I offer glimpses of my mother’s early life. First is a piece she wrote in 1980 about her grandmother and life in the Batesville Martin home in the late 1920s and 1930s. Click here for “My Grandmother’s House.”

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Figure 1 - Left to right - top: Cousin Emma Campbell, Belle Martin (Cecilia's grandmother), Cousin Hattie Campbell, Bessie Matthews and John Martin (Cecilia’s grandfather). Lower: Helen Martin (Cecilia’s mother), Sam Moore, Jessie Moore

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Figure 2 - Excerpt from "My Grandmother's House"
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Figure 3 - Grandmother's House - 255 North 8th Street, Batesville, AR

The second is one I have previously posted on the E-FORUM (click here) Cecilia King’s Extraordinary Senior Trip. Eighty-four years ago, my mother, Cecilia King (later Butt), lived in a small town in eastern Arkansas (Beebe, 1940 population 1,189) and graduated from nearby Batesville High School in 1940 when she was 18.  After graduation, she had an opportunity for an extended visit with her uncle and aunt in Honolulu. Her uncle, Colonel (later Brigadier General) Edgar King, was a career medical corps MD and the ranking medical officer of the Hawaiian Department. She traveled by train to and from the West Coast, and from there, to and from Hawaii by ship.

She documented almost every day of her nine months of travels and her time in Honolulu with 581 pages of handwritten letters to her parents back in Arkansas. I compiled “Cecilia King’s Extraordinary Senior Trip” by transcribing the letters and supplementing them with pages from her daily appointment book, items from her scrapbook and biographical information about friends she made in Hawaii. I added footnotes about places of interest and historical photos from the Internet.

What makes this particular interesting is the pre-Pearl Harbor attack context. Her social interaction during her nine-month visit was almost exclusively with young, junior Army and Navy officers, daughters of senior Army and Navy officers and wives of junior Army and Navy officers, all of whom seemed to be living it up in what became the calm before the storm. Just five months after she returned from Hawaii, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, her Uncle Ed was in charge of treating the 3,581 casualties, and the United States was thrown into in WWII. Because of his successful preparation for such an event, Col. King was decorated and promoted to brigadier general.

A major motivation for the visit seems to be her aunt’s objective of finding Cecilia a husband from among the numerous young eligible bachelor officers swarming Honolulu. Among those she dated was a Lt. William (“Westy”) Westmoreland, later Army chief of staff. Lucky for me, she did not find a husband in Hawaii but instead met and married another young Army officer, my father, only a few months later while attending the University of Arkansas.

Figure 4 - Cecilia King, Christmas 1940