‘I’m very upfront’: Meet Mable Butler, 95, ‘the matriarch of Black politics in Orlando’

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The woman known as the “matriarch of African American politics in Orlando” might be 95 years old, but she hasn’t lost any of her fire, passion or willingness to speak her mind.

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Mable Butler’s imprint is all over Orange County: The family center that bears her name, an exhibit about her at the Orange County Regional History Center, a Habitat for Humanity community named Butler’s Preserve and the street where she’s has lived for more than six decades.

Butler moved to Orlando in 1957 and later got active in the PTA and registering people to vote.

Politics was not in the picture. But when she brought a few people together to talk about who should run for the city council in 1984, they chose her.

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She ran and won, becoming the first Black woman on the council.

Then, six years later, she was elected the first Black person on the Orange County Commission.

See the full interview with Butler below:

In those 14 years in elected office, Butler was passionate about many issues, like affordable housing, making sure African American communities weren’t overlooked and confronting city and county department heads about whether their staff reflected the community.

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Now, at age 95, Butler has a room filled with plaques, awards, recognitions and memories, like when — as she puts it — she stole the Florida Classic from Tampa and brought it to Orlando.

She may be retired from elected office, but she still has a lot to say about blazing the trail for others and how they should treat the office they’re holding.

“I’m just so pleased that we have so many that want to run but it bothers me when they forget why they ran. To be a public servant and not lock themselves up with a title -- that bothers me. Commissioner, mayor, governor, senator — you are a public servant,” she said.

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The Garden Theater in Winter Garden will award Butler one of its trailblazer awards as it presents a play called “The Mountaintop,” inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s final public speech.

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Vanessa Echols

Vanessa Echols, WFTV.com

I have been a member of the Eyewitness News team since 1992 and currently anchor Eyewitness News at Noon and 4 p.m. on Channel 9.