South Walton loses its visionary with the passing of Van Ness Butler, Jr.

Van Ness & Johnnye Butler
Deborah Wheeler/The Sun
Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 09:55 PM.

With Van Ness Butler, Jr.'s passing on Feb. 14, the community lost the visionary behind what made South Walton what it is today. That feeling was not just the conclusion of one person, but of many, as The Sun spoke to several long-time residents.

“No one person in all of Walton County had as great an impact on the county as Van Ness Butler,” said longtime friend Malcolm Patterson. “We lost a piece of history that there is no way to replace."

  A pioneer family

Butler 's grandfather, W.H. Butler, came to Walton County in 1906.

In 1919, W.H. Butler acquired property in Grayton Beach in exchange for Inlet Beach property now known as Camp Helen. The Grayton Beach property he acquired included almost all of what is now known as Grayton Beach.

W.H. Butler first built a house in Point Washington before beginning to build in Grayton. Butler's father and mother, Van R. and Helen Butler, lived in Grayton when they married in 1929. They were school teachers.

Van Ness was born in 1930. After the birth of their children, the family moved back to Point Washington.

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