By Bunny Jackson-Ransom
History maker in one of the best possible ways: Setting records across the state of Georgia – bringing more people to the polls to vote
Helen Butler knows more about voting rights, who votes, who does not vote, where the poles are located, which poles get closed, and much, much more, than any other individual in Atlanta and the state of Georgia. I’ve seen her in action. She is a walking, talking voter advocate.
Executive Director for the Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, an advocacy organization comprised of representatives from the human rights, civil rights, environmental, labor, peace and justice groups throughout the State of Georgia and other southeastern states. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery served as convener of the coalition. As a part of the 2000 election cycle, Helen joined the NAACP Voter Fund as the 5th Congressional District coordinator and subsequently served as Georgia State Coordinator for the NAACP Voter Empowerment Program in 2001 and 2002. As a result of her efforts in tracking the statistical results of the 2000 election cycle and problems that were encountered with the voting process, the method of recording election results was changed by the Georgia Secretary of State. Helen worked on a “pilot project” with the Secretary of State’s office to demonstrate electronic voting machines throughout the state.
In 2003, she joined the Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda as their State Director, when Dr. Joseph Lowery was the head of this organization. She was able to increase the membership of the organization and promote collaborative issue campaign organizing activities throughout the state. During the 2004 election cycle, she directed a strategic non-partisan grassroots initiative in the 12th Congressional District with “Voices for Working Families,” using college and community young adults (18 – 35-year old). During the five-month period of the Voices project, a door-to-door campaign in the 12th Congressional District achieved statistics of 81,339 knocks, 24,443 contacts, 9,466 registrations, and a conversion rate of 39%. The 2008 election cycle included the registration of 100,000 new registered voters with coalition partners and the training of over 1,000 new civic engagement partners through the Georgia Vote Connection Center, a collaboration with the Georgia Citizens’ Coalition on Hunger. If this is not proof of what a “walking/talking voting machine” is, I don’t know what could be more proof.
In 2006, she became the Local Voter Protection Advocate for the “Advancement Project,” a racial and social justice organization that works with communities seeking to build a fair and just multi-racial democracy. She has been working with Advancement Project’s Voter Protection program to eliminate legal and structural barriers to voting for potential voters in minority and low-income communities with specific emphasis on the new voter suppression law requiring photo identification to vote.
Most recently, she assisted with the transition from analog to digital television, working with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund and its partner organizations to ensure that communities of color remained connected to “free” television, for information, emergency management, education, and entertainment.
Helen currently directs the Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda’s “Count Me Black” Complete Count Committee activities to increase the response rate of undercounted African, African American, Afro-Latino, and Caribbean communities. This collaborative effort is supported by a diverse number of National, State, local organizations, and individuals who recognize that the census plays a critical and vital role in determining funding and fair representation for communities of color. The Coalition’s Black Youth Vote component will join the Emory Black Law Student Association in drawing a community of color “redistricting maps” to ensure our voices are heard in the reapportionment of Congress, State Legislature, and local government.
Prior to joining the non-profit world, Helen served as Vice President of Human Resources for retail and wholesale grocery businesses for over 20 years, as well as, an accountant for General Motors Corporation in Doraville, GA, and their central offices in Warren, Michigan. While in the graduate Public Administration studies at the University of Georgia, she served as an administrative assistant for Athens-Clarke County Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C) where she developed and implemented a functional budgeting system.
Butler serves on the Board of Directors for Women’s Actions for New Directions (WAND), the Morgan County Board of Elections and The State of Georgia Help America Vote Act Advisory Committee (HAVA). She has served on the Board of Directors for Colonial Stores’ Employees’ Credit Union, Board of Directors for YES! Atlanta (Youth Program), Founding member of the Zeta Psi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at the University of Georgia, Advisory Board of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Center Manager for Junior Achievement, Life Member of the NAACP, Vice President of Metro Atlanta Personnel Society, Society for Human Resources Management, and Industrial Relations Research Association.
She has received recognition from the following organizations: Delta Sigma Theta’s Atlanta Alumnae Chapter (my sorors); 2008 Douglass Debs Award; Georgia Stand Up 2006 Policy Institute for Civic Leadership; Georgia Human Rights Union; Who’s Who Among African Americans, 1976; Outstanding Young Women of America, 1983; 2002 National Association of Secretaries of State Award for Voter Education; 2009 Unsung Shero Award by Concerned Black Clergy of Atlanta; 2010 Rainbow/PUSH Fannie Lou Hammer Award. In other words, she has been “awarded and rewarded for her never-ending dedication to this case of the vote.”
Helen is a native of Morgan County, Georgia. Born in Buckhead, GA to Walter C. Butler and the late Hattie Mae Mitchell Butler. She has four brothers – Ernest Vinson and the late Walter Curtis, Jr., Bobby and Melvin Butler; and one adopted sister – Linda Veasley.
Educated in the public schools in Morgan County – Mt. Zion and Springfield Elementary, Helen graduated with honors from Pearl High School in Madison, GA in 1966 as salutatorian. Helen received a Bachelor of business administration from the University of Georgia with a major in accounting. She also served as a recruiter for the Masters’ of Public Administration program at this University. She was certified as an Issue Campaign Organizer by the Midwest Training Academy in 2000.
Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church is where she can be found on Sunday mornings where Rev. Timothy E. Kindell is a pastor. She has served in several capacities at the church, but she dedicates most of her time in working with the Voices of Zion and the Women’s Auxiliary.
How does Helen Butler do all of these things? Isn’t it obvious? Because she cares – she recognized a need in the community and she stood up to fill it. When you care about a cause and about “our” people, there is this burning inside that keeps one going. When you step out on faith and give your time, love, and knowledge, you make history. So, the next time you see Helen Butler, give her a hug and tell her “thank you.” Remember she has done something that probably helped you.