Donald Butler
Donald Butler

Obituary of Donald Butler

On March 20, 2023 Don Butler passed away at the age of 97.  Born in Evanston, Illinois, most of his youth was spent in Carpinteria, California on the family’s lemon and avocado farm. Don’s passion for agriculture and specifically the cattle industry was only second to his love for his wife, Palmer (Blue), their 6 children, 13 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. He took special pride in watching his family grow and instilling values of truth, honesty, ambition, responsibility, courage and most importantly caring for one another.

By the time he had graduated from high school, Don had become an Eagle Scout. His involvement in scouting continued for many years as a Scoutmaster in Yuma and in Tucson. Following high school, Don enlisted in the army after which he enrolled at the University of Arizona where he received a bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry. While at the university, he was a member of the SAE fraternity and  student body president. Throughout his life he maintained a connection with the U of AZ staying involved with the College of Agriculture and as president of the Alumni Association.  

Don’s early career in Yuma AZ through 1970 was focused primarily in the areas of agriculture finance and cattle feeding. In 1970, he purchased Coronado Cattle Company, which fed cattle in twenty-three different feed yards. Although managing and feeding thousands of cattle was all encompassing, he  found time to apply his leadership skills, outside his own business, to encourage positive change in the beef industry. He was involved in the Yuma and Pima county fairs and Junior livestock auctions for many years. 

Don was a leader and served as president of the Arizona Cattle Feeders Association. He was a founder and served as chairman of the board of the US Meat Export Federation. In 1986, he served as President of the National Cattlemen’s Association (predecessor to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association). For ten years (1988-1998) he was on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Don was asked to serve on President  Reagan’s and President George H.W. Bush’s committee on trade and negotiations. His unique ability to form  strong relationships made him a perfect fit for these critical leadership responsibilities.

In 2003, Don was appointed as the Director of Agriculture for the State of Arizona. He served in this capacity for ten years before his retirement. He truly worked for the farmers and ranchers in the state of Arizona and his demeanor brought a sense of calm and stability in dealing with difficult and challenging issues.

Don was the recipient of many industry recognitions for his contributions. These would include the Golden Spur Award, USMEF’s Distinguished Service Award, NCBAs Industry Vision award, The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Citation of Distinguished Service Award and most recently his induction into the Arizona Farm and Ranch Hall of Fame.

Don is survived by his wife, Blue, and children Nora, Marne, Don, John and Robert. His oldest daughter, Sarah, predeceased him in 2007.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, we ask donations be made to the Empire Ranch Foundation. Don was a board member and the purpose of the foundation is to restore and preserve the Empire Ranch’s historical buildings and education center. Donations can be made at

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A Memorial Tree was planted for Donald
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Adair Funeral Homes - Avalon Chapel
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