BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — For his 100th birthday, Victor Butler doesn’t want a cake or presents. He wants something else.
Butler, a Rhode Island native who served in the Tuskegee Airmen from 1941 to 1946, will turn 100 on May 21. Working as a mechanic during the war, Butler is believed to be one of the last living Airmen. Charles McGee, the last of the Tuskegee Airmen pilots, died earlier in January.
“I’ll tell you one thing: It’s great to get to 100 years old, but when you’re 100, there’s not much you want,” Butler said from his home in Rhode Island. “There aren’t too many things that will make you happy than hearing from people and talking for people.”
Butler said that when he first joined the Army, he wanted to become a pilot. After not making the cut, he became an aircraft mechanic and was stationed with the Tuskegee Airmen in Alabama. Nicknamed “The Red Tails,” the Tuskegee Airmen were a group of Black fighter pilots who flew many missions during WWII between 1940 and 1948.
Butler said he always knew there was something special about the Airmen and is proud of being part of their history.
“I enjoyed being in Tuskegee, although it wasn’t enjoyable in the town,” he said, adding that segregation was an issue in the town.
A couple of weeks ago, media outlets first started reporting on Butler and his wish to have birthday cards for his birthday. As of Thursday, he had already received over 500 cards and counting.
“I have two big bags of cards I haven’t even opened yet,” he said.
Butler said he has enjoyed reading the cards that have been sent from across the country.
“What’s special about it? It’s special just sitting and reading them,” he said. “They all have nice letters with them. Some of them have been very inspiring. It makes me feel great.”
Butler’s contributions were recently recognized by the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
“Mr. Butler has always been a hard-working man who always strived tirelessly to provide for his family and loved ones,” a resolution from the Rhode Island House of Representatives read. “Mr. Butler was the first African-American to work for Brown and Sharpe and worked for the company for 34 years. Mr. Butler was also a successful businessman who owned and operated the ‘Victor Butler Automatic Screw Machine Repair’ company for eighteen years.”
Butler has five children, eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.
Birthday cards can be mailed to the following address:
Victor W. Butler
C/O Gary Butler
P.O. Box. 3523
Cranston, RI 02910