Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Leonard William Henry Butts (1904–1975)

by M. W. D. White

This article was published:

Leonard William Henry Butts (1904-1975), solicitor and businessman, was born on 1 December 1904 at Northfleet, Kent, England, only child of Leonard John Butts, chalk quarry labourer, and his wife Ada Florence, née Johnson. The family migrated to Queensland. Leonard was educated at Wynnum High School and Rockhampton Grammar School. On 16 February 1920 he joined the public service in Brisbane and in August was appointed to the Titles and Stamp Duties Office, Rockhampton; he studied accountancy at night and obtained legal qualifications. He then worked as an articled clerk with Grant & Stumm, a local firm of solicitors. Admitted as a solicitor on 9 December 1929, Butts joined Morris, Fletcher & Cross and became a partner in 1932. At St John's Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane, on 9 December 1933 he married a public servant Helen Margaret Letherland.

Mobilized in June 1940 as a legal services officer at headquarters, First Australian Army, with the rank of captain, Butts was posted to Northern Command operational headquarters in January 1942 and in May was promoted temporary lieutenant colonel. On 20 July he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force and in October 1943 was appointed chief legal officer, I Australian Corps. From May 1944 to July 1945 he served in New Guinea and Bougainville, and was twice mentioned in dispatches. When Butts relinquished his appointment in September 1945, Lieutenant General (Sir) Vernon Sturdee commended his 'integrity, fairness and wholehearted co-operation'. Butts was appointed O.B.E. in 1947.

After the war he returned to Morris, Fletcher & Cross. Butts was a councillor (1946-60) and president (1950-52) of the Queensland Law Society, and sat on a number of its committees, including a statutory committee that investigated allegations of misconduct in 1967-68. Vice-president (1951-54) and president (1954-56) of the Law Council of Australia, he was also an honorary solicitor for many organizations. He was, as well, a director of several prominent firms, among them Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort Ltd, and chairman of the Queensland board of Colonial Mutual Life Pty Ltd; he had played a major role in the formation of the Brisbane Development Association and chaired its inaugural meeting in 1957.

Community minded, Butts was a trustee of the Queensland Anti-Cancer Fund, a director (1959-72) of the Queensland division of the National Heart Foundation of Australia and a councillor (1953) of the St John Ambulance Association; he was appointed a knight of grace of the Order of St John in 1974. In addition, he was a member of the board of the Queensland Theatre Company and of the governing committee of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. In 1964 he was elevated to C.B.E. Influential, liberal in outlook and gifted with a sense of humour, Butts was respected for his tact, humane judgement and common sense. He retired in 1969, but remained with Morris, Fletcher & Cross as a consultant.

In his retirement Butts was a founding member (1971) of the interim council of Griffith University, Brisbane, deputy-chairman (1971-75) of its first council and its first deputy-chancellor (from July 1975). A keen sportsman, he was president of the Ithaca and St Lucia bowling clubs, and an inaugural member of the Ashgrove Golf Club. He died on 6 October 1975 in Brisbane and was cremated with Presbyterian forms; his wife, son and three daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Notable Men of Queensland (Brisb, 1950)
  • Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 11 Aug 1974
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 29 May, 1 June 1957, 13 June 1964, 8 Oct 1975, 16 Jan 1976
  • records of Law Society of Queensland, Brisbane
  • private information.

Citation details

M. W. D. White, 'Butts, Leonard William Henry (1904–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 December, 1904
Northfleet, Kent, England


6 October, 1975 (aged 70)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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