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Marion Butler, 1863-1938


Marion Butler, 1863-1938


Marion Butler (1863-1838) was a central figure in the Fusionst government of North Carolina, serving as a United States Senator from 1895-1901. As Chairman of the State Populist Party, he helped to negotiate an alliance between the Populists and Republicans in 1894 to create a Fusion ticket that went on to defeat the Democratic Party in the state elections. He also campaigned actively against the Disfranchisement Amendment during the political campaign of 1900.


Erin Glant


Marion Butler (1863-1938) served as the Chairman of the Populist Party in North Carolina during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as a United States Senator from 1895-1901. He helped to negotiate an alliance between the Populist and Republican parties in 1894 to create a Fusion ticket that defeated the Democratic Party in the state elections. Butler attempted to forge an alliance with the Democrats in 1898 but his efforts were unsuccessful and, although the Republicans and Populist eventually agreed to work together again, his party was soundly defeated by the Democrats and their white supremacy platform. (UNC-CH Libraries; Perman 2001, 150-162) Butler was a proponent of white supremacy, or at least agreed with it in theory. But, he and the newspaper he edited, The Caucasian, came out strongly against the Suffrage Amendment in 1900, despite the fact that the Populist Party took no official position on the issue. He objected that the proposed amendment would likely disfranchise both blacks and whites, particularly if the grandfather clause was declared unconstitutional. Instead he supported an amendment banning African Americans from holding office, a law his party claimed would more successfully keep African Americans out of politics than the Democrat-sponsored amendment. After the Amendment was adopted in 1900, Butler, who lost a re-election bid that same year, and his fellow Senator Jeter Pritchard requested that the Senate refuse to seat the new North Carolina Senators on the grounds that North Carolina’s election law was unconstitutional. Congress ultimately failed to act on this request. (Perman 2001, 166-170, 234-238) He continued his political actives even after leaving office, eventually joining the Republican Party which he actively supported for the rest of his life. (UNC-CH Libraries)


Perman, Michael. Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

The University Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The North Carolina Election of 1898. "Marion Butler (1863-1938)." Accessed April 11, 2012.


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Erin Glant, Marion Butler, 1863-1938, Civil War Era NC, accessed April 15, 2024,