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Halifax County commissioners honored former United States Congressman G.K. Butterfield with a proclamation today, remembering his service — especially in the field of civil rights while as a member of the bar, the judicial bench and in Washington.

“While serving in his many capacities he was instrumental in the lawsuit that established voting districts on the Halifax County Board of Commissioners while representing Horace Johnson Sr.,” the document said.

Discussion of the lawsuit was prevalent throughout the honors bestowed upon Butterfield, with David Harvey, president of the Halifax County Chapter of the NAACP, saying, “I don’t think a lot of people in this county realize or understand the impact of that lawsuit.”

Without it, Harvey said, people would not even today see the current makeup of the board. “And certainly you would not see Chairman (Vernon) Bryant being chairman. No one was as important as Horace Johnson, Carolyn Johnson’s husband, taking that bold position and filing that lawsuit and G.K. Butterfield taking that case and arguing it … We got the results we got. You’re witnessing the results of that lawsuit not only here in Halifax County, but across the state.”

Harvey said the lawsuit benefited the county beyond the board of commissioners. “Today, because of the lawsuit, doors have opened in many areas. We have for the first time an African American sheriff in this county. We have an African American district attorney. These accomplishments wouldn’t have happened even now had it not been for that lawsuit back in the 80s.”

Carolyn Johnson, who presented a framed proclamation to the former congressman, said, “We’ve known each other ever since the early 80s and that came about because of my husband. He declared the election had been stolen from him. Because of that, that’s why I’m sitting on this board today.”

Because of that, Carolyn Johnson said, “You’re not only known in Halifax County — you’re known across the country.”

The proclamation, which was ratified by the board and read by Johnson says that Butterfield served the First Congressional District for more than 18 years and was unanimously elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus for the 114th Congress. “During his career he also served as a North Carolina resident superior court judge, associate justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court and North Carolina special superior court judge.”

Butterfield, Johnson read, “Has been an advocate for county government on many critical issues and has made important contributions to the citizens of North Carolina and in particular Halifax County.”

The proclamation called Butterfield “a dedicated and extraordinary public servant (who) has demonstrated strong leadership, wisdom, creativity and community spirit, thus enhancing community services, economic development, education, health, transportation and improving Halifax County’s unique quality of life.”

Commissioner Sammy Webb said he met Butterfield when the former congressman served as a superior court judge. “Before he was a congressman, I knew him as a judge. Some people know him as a great civil rights attorney.”

Commissioner Chenoa Richardson Davis presented Butterfield a gift for “being a trailblazer for justice in Halifax County and across the state.”

State Representative Michael Wray described Butterfield as a good friend. “If I would call and you’d be on the house floor you would always call back. You served proudly and with honor.”

Retired judge Alma Hinton first met Butterfield in 1991 when she served as an assistant district attorney. “He became a mentor to me. I learned so many things about Halifax County … I am blessed today to be able to call him my friend.”

Retired Halifax Community College President Ervin B. Griffin V. Griffin Sr. also called Butterfield a role model and an ally for the institution. “A lot of things at the college came from him.”

James Mills, a member of the Halifax County school board, said, “All of the wonderful things that have been said about G.K. Butterfield are absolutely true. He is a lover of history. This man is steeped in history.”

Butterfield said his love of Halifax County comes from his family roots here. “During my 18 years of serving in congress every time I would come, I would talk about how special Halifax County is to me. That was not political talk, that was not hyperbole. When I said it, I meant it. I have a very strong bond in Halifax County. For you to reach out to me and to bestow these honors on me today is really gratifying.”