Former Bryan County Probate Judge Hermon Butler Sr. passed away Monday. He was 81.
County Commissioner Noah Covington, whose wife Kim was Butler’s niece, said Butler “wasn’t just part of Pembroke. He was Pembroke.”
Pembroke Mayor Judy Cook agreed.
“He met no strangers,” Cook said. “He made everyone feel welcome.”
Butler also was a barber for many years in Pembroke and owned the Hee-Haw Barber Shop in the late 1960s and 1970s.
“I used to take my kids to him to get their hair cut,” Cook remembered.
Butler was a member of the Pembroke Christian Church and had served as president of the Georgia Foundation of Saddle Clubs, as well as being past master of the Pembroke Masonic Lodge.
He served as probate judge from 1980 to 2000.
“Everyone has stories about Uncle Hermon,” Covington said. “He lived his Christian faith and would help anyone who needed it. I knew a guy who he bought a set of tires for just because he heard the guy needed them, even though he didn’t know the guy.”
Butler was also an active gardener and perhaps best known in political circles for his role as head cook for the “Road Kill Café.”
That is what Butler and Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith humorously named their cookouts that began in the mid-1980s. What started as quarterly get-togethers among the law enforcement and legal communities soon grew to attract crowds of hundreds that included elected officials and politicians near and far.
The menus generally consisted of 1,200 or so quail, a half dozen deer, chicken, fish and lowcountry boil. The gatherings eventually grew so big they moved from the courthouse grounds to Butler’s family property off Highway 67 near the Georgia Wranglers Arena.
“Everybody’s invited,” Butler told Bryan County News in a 2015 story. “If you hear of it, you’re welcome.”
The Road Kill Café last met in July 2015 after a long hiatus when Butler said Smith had suggested “Why don’t we do another cookin’?” You can read about that event at: http://www.bryancountynews.com/archives/37867/.
Over the years, visitors to the event ended up including Gov. Roy Barnes, former Congressman Jack Kingston and former Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Butler liked telling the story about how former Pembroke Mayor Mary Warnell was at Isakson’s office once while visiting Washington, D.C.
“He asked her where she was from,” Butler regaled. “She says, ‘Pembroke, and I guess you don’t know where that is.’ He said, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the home of the Road Kill Café.”
Butler was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Claudine Crowe Butler, in 2004. Survivors include two sons, Hermon Butler Jr. and his wife Linda of Statesboro and Al Butler — the Bryan County softball coach — and his wife Robin, as well as grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be Wednesday from 5-7:30 p.m. at Flanders Morrison Funeral Home. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Flanders Morrison Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Jim Sullivan officiating. Burial will be at Northside Cemetery.