The University of Missouri graduate student whose hunger strike hellped push former university president Tim Wolfe to resign is the son of a top executive at a railroad company, the Omaha World-Herald reports.
Butler’s hunger strike was in protest of what he called the school’s “systems of oppression” and “a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., incidents that have dynamically disrupted the learning experience.”
His father and mother, Eric and Cynthia Butler, are the pastor and co-pastor at Joy of Life Ministries. In addition, Eric Butler is an executive vice president of marketing and sales at Union Pacific, a major railroad corporation. His 2014 compensation was $8.4 million, according to regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission found by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“He is responsible for Union Pacific’s six major business units: agriculture, automobiles, chemicals, energy, industrial products and intermodal,” according to the elder Butler’s business biography. “Collectively, the business units account for nearly $20 billion in annual revenue.”
The younger Butler told The Washington Post that his family is reason for his focus on his political activism.
“They used their talents, my mother both in education and my father having a law background, really to do advocacy for the community,” he said, “and I think as a young child, that’s where it started.”
Butler, who was a high school student at Omaha Central as well as a football player for the school, told The Post he experienced racism while on campus. He claimed he was called racial slurs, and that someone wrote the n-word on his dorm room door.
Jay Ball, the head football coach and a teacher at Omaha Central, seemed to have fond memories of Butler, telling the Omaha World Herald that “he was one of the hardest working kids I’d ever been around.”
Butler wrote in a letter sent to the UM System Board of Curators before his hunger strike, “During this hunger strike, I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”
“For me, it really is about a call for justice,” he said. “I’m fighting for the black community on campus because justice is worth fighting for. And justice is worth starving for.”