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

Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 21:55 PM.

In 1937 the Butlers built the old Butler Store in Grayton, which became the community's gathering place years before it would become the iconic Red Bar restaurant.

Van Ness married and raised his family here when few knew about the beauty of the area's beaches.

‘Friend, an advisor, a counselor’

To say that Butler had a stake in the county would be an understatement. Not one to sit back and just enjoy what he had, Butler took an active role in the direction South Walton would take and what it would end up looking like.

In 1988, Butler's boyhood friend, Patterson was living in Destin and had just sold his boat business when he saw in the paper a small ad for someone to head a new tourism division in Walton County. Butler was a driving force behind the creation of the TDC, said Patterson. As the TDC's first executive director, Patterson worked closely with Butler over the next decade. He credits Butler's influence with much of the TDC's accomplishments during the ensuing years.

Patterson said he was mandated to use half of the available revenue for advertisement and promoting South Walton, and the other half was dedicated to beach improvements.

"Up until that time, no money was spent on beaches," said Patterson.



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