Wally Butterworth papers , 1930-1973

Overview of the Collection

Butterworth, Wally, 1901-1974
Wally Butterworth papers
1930-1973 (inclusive)
5.25 linear feet, (5 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 129
Herbert Wallace (Wally) Butterworth (1901-1974) was a radio announcer for NBC radio and host for numerous variety and quiz programs for both radio and television. Later in life he became involved in conservative political causes. The collection includes correspondence, radio program scripts, original writings, phonograph records, tape recordings, and photographs.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Collective Name Index to the Research Collection of Conservative and Libertarian Studies for a cross-referenced index to names of correspondents in this collection, if any, and 37 related University of Oregon collections, including dates of correspondence. See index instructions on use.

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Born in 1901, the son of a well-known concert pianist, Hebert Wallace (Wally) Butterworth decided at an early age to be a singer. With money he earned from an after-school job, he bought a season ticket to the weekly Metropolitan Opera Philadelphia. He also took singing lessons and, after graduating from Swarthmore High School as president of his class, went on two successful singing tours in Canada and the eastern United States.

One day in the early 1930s while in New York, on the spur of the moment Butterworth decided to audition as an announcer for NBC radio. He was accepted and soon transferred to Chicago where a favorite assignment was covering the Chicago Civic Opera. He also announced the symphony, football games and livestock parades. He served a term in the Navy, and when ge got out he was asked to co-host "Vox Pop," "the oldest interview show on radio." On the show he interviewed people from 47 nations and all 48 states. He also worked as anchorman for both Democratic and Republican conventions on ABC and NBC radio in 1932 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran against Herbert Hoover.

In ensuing years Butterworth hosted numerous variety and quiz programs, some of which he designed. Beginning in the 1930s he contacted movie show proprietors offering to stage quiz shows in the movie houses on slow box office nights. His popularity continued until the early 1960s when Butterworth lost a lawsuit against General Electric over a contract for a television quiz show he felt was directly modeled after on of his radio programs.

He became quite disillusioned during these legal struggles. Soon after, he became politically active, privately producing records on political subjects under several labels. He also broadcasted a radio program in Atlanta on which he opposed the NAACP convention and attacked blacks, non-Christians, and Catholics. The show was cancelled after two weeks and the resulting lawsuit he filed against the radio station ended unsuccessfully.

Butterworth turned elsewhere in an attempt to find political satisfaction. With Mrs. W. H. Smith and James Venable, who owned the property in Stone Mountain where the Ku Klux Klan held annual meetings, Butterworth organized the Defensive Legion of Registered Americans in 1962. A subgroup of this organization was called the Christian Voters and Buyers League. One of the main purposes of this subgroup was to boycott all kosher food manufacturers and Jewish owned businesses.

Butterworth continued his private crusades, opposing gun control, sex education, parades, and the city of New York. He reviewed textbooks, incorporated the Constitution Party, and with the help of his sister, compiled various statistics such as the voting records of senators. Once nicknamed "the voice with the smile," an embittered Wally Butterworth died in Pennsylvania on February 24, 1974.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Wally Butterworth Papers consist largely of correspondence, scripts for radio programs, and writings by Butterworth, phonograph records, and tape recordings. Seven folders of photographs, mostly relating to his radio career, have been removed to the Photograph Collection, PH144.

The correspondence has been separated into outgoing and incoming letters, with the outgoing letters arrange chronologically and the incoming letters arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Early correspondence includes ideas and information regarding radio programs. After 1960, the correspondence reflects Butterworth's interest in the conservative movement. Political correspondents include Wickliffe B. Vennard, Pedro A. del Valle, and James Venable. Associated conservative materials, such as mailing lists and bumper stickers, follow the correspondence.

The radio scripts are arranged alphabetically by title, and date from the 1930s and 1940s. The most extensive series of scripts is for "Pages of Time," a program similar to a scrapbook of historical anecdotes. Ten folders of general information such as summaries, background information, formats of the shows, and publicity, are filed after the scripts.

Butterworth's writings consist of notes and ideas for speeches, essays and record scripts. Some are typewritten, the majority are handwritten; some are on loose-leaf paper and some are in spiral notebooks. They are undated and in no discernible order.

Following these writings are three folders of biographical information containing clippings, awards, and legal papers from the early 1960s which document his career. Some of these documents are annotated by his sister, Olga Butterworth.

The records and tape recordings concern analysis of and reactions to current conservative political issues. They are listed individually by title in the finding aid.

Broadcast images are included.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Anti-Catholicism
  • Conservatives
  • Judaism--Controversial literature
  • Radio broadcasters
  • Radio programs

Personal Names

  • Butterworth, Olga
  • Del Valle, Pedro A. (Pedro Augusto), 1893-1978
  • Venable, James
  • Vennard, Wickliffe B.

Corporate Names

  • Defensive Legion of Registered Americans

Form or Genre Terms

  • Photographic prints
  • Scripts (documents)
  • Sound recordings