JACKSON, Tenn. – Feb. 12, 2002 – For some, Union University’s homecoming is a time to celebrate the future; for others, homecoming is an opportunity to revisit the past and the memories that reside there. For former Jackson resident Carlton Butler (’52), Homecoming is a combination of fond memories of his days as a student and a chance to see how his campus and hometown have grown and changed.
“There’s no comparison between the old campus and the new,” says Butler. “There’s so much more that Union has to offer to students today.”
Butler grew up in Jackson and is amazed by the changes that have taken place in the city itself. The fields where Butler used to hunt rabbits and pick watermelons have given way to the 45 Bypass. However, some things haven’t changed.
“There’s a ninety-two-year-old lady who taught me how to crochet when I was eight years old who still lives in the same house downtown that I need to visit while I’m in Jackson,” Butler explains. While the memories of his childhood in Jackson are many, the time he spent at Union brings back some favorite stories.
Butler never lived on campus as a student, but he did give dorm life a try for one night. When he woke up at 2 a.m. that morning, he discovered that it was only twenty degrees inside the room. While attempting to leave the room to find warmth, his hand froze to the metal doorknob. That was Butler’s last night on campus.
Another winter memory is sledding on snow and ice downtown and being arrested for sliding in the street. At the time Butler was an ordained minister with a congregation of his own, and as the police car drove through Jackson, they passed a classmate and fellow pastor who was handing out tracts on the street. Butler simply waved from the backseat at the shocked student, much to Butler’s amusement.
Since his time as a student, Butler says he has noticed a change in the way students behave and dress at Union.
“I saw a girl sitting cross-legged in the hall wearing blue jeans with great big holes in the knees,” Butler said. “We never would have done anything like that. Students today are not overwhelmed by everything the way we were at the same age. They know so much more now than we did.”
After graduation, Butler went to Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where he met and married Fran, a graduate from a sister institution. During their senior year in seminary, the couple felt God calling them to the northwest corner of the United States to plan and build churches there. As a bi-vocational pastor, Butler was also a builder so this was perfectly suited to his skills.
When they arrived in Seattle, Butler found a job the second day they were there, answering both his prayers and the prayers of his new employer who had been looking for a Christian man who could help him. Since that time, Butler has started many churches and has himself, personally, built three church buildings throughout Washington and Oregon. Butler believes that Homecoming is a very unique opportunity to look at the new campus and remember what it was like fifty years ago.
“We miss the old campus,” Butler says, “but we like the enthusiasm we see here at the new one. Sometimes we see things and think, ‘times sure have changed,’ but many times we see that they have changed for the better.”
By Jody Webster,
Class of 2004
Sara B. Horn,