MAXTON — Stephanie Chavis remembers Samuel Butler, former chief of the Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department, as someone who could always brighten her day.
“If you were having a bad day, he would always make you feel better, ” said Chavis, director of Emergency Services for Robeson County. “He just had this bubbly personality. That personality would show through even in a phone call and brighten your day. I can remember many occasions when that happened.”
Chavis was among family, friends and fellow firefighters gathered at the Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department Wednesday for a bridge-naming dedication ceremony in Butler’s honor. The U.S. 74 bridge at Cabinet Shop Road in Maxton is now known as the Chief Samuel Butler Sr. Bridge for the chief who was died on Jan. 8, 2012, as he was responding to a vehicle accident.
During the ceremony, county and state officials presented family members with signs bearing the bridge’s new name.
“It has been a hard time, with this being the second anniversary of his death, but this ceremony today has helped,” said Sam Butler Jr., the late chief’s son who is also a member of the Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department. “It’s getting easier with the support we have been receiving from the county.”
The bridge was named for Butler after the Robeson County Board of Commissioners requested the North Carolina Department of Transportation designate the bridge in Butler’s honor. According to a DOT spokesperson, there are specific requirements that must be made to have a bridge named in honor of an individual, the most important requirement being the individual was a true “public servant.”
“A bridge can not be named for just anyone,” the spokesperson said.
There are currently about 10 honorary designations in Robeson County.
Butler had been a firefighter with Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department for about 19 years when he died at age 52. He had become the department’s chief in 2011.
Butler also served as president of the Robeson County Firemen’s Association for six years.
“He loved serving people,” his son said. “He never met a stranger.”
County Commissioner Roger Oxendine said he was longtime close friend of Butler.
“He was a good man, he is irreplaceable,” Oxendine said. “He was a man amongst men. He will never be forgotten.”
Oxendine said that Butler always had a good word for everyone.
“If we all followed Sam’s ways, just think how great a country we would have,” said Oxendine. “He loved everyone, and most of the time he would tell you he loved you. That’s a hard thing for a man to do, but that’s just the kind of man Sam was.”
Speaker after speaker praised Butler, who worked for Campbell Soup Company, held a second job, and in addition to being a firefighter was involved in numerous community activities ,including coaching youth football and baseball.
Todd Allen replaced Butler as president of the Robeson County’s Fireman’s Association
“I miss him a lot. He was a guy that if you needed anything would get the job done or find someone who could get the job done,” he said. “… We can’t replace him, but God knows best. Every time that bell rang, he had to go. That was Sam.”