William Horace Butterworth Jr. was born December 4th, 1920 to Lizzie Mae Cooper and William H. Butterworth Sr., a World War One veteran, in Talladega, Alabama. His mother was born May 23rd, 1902 and died July 2nd, 1955, and his father was born February 21st, 1897 and died February 4th, 1973. William had six siblings: Johnny Columbus – born July 11th, 1922 and died July 15th, 1987 - , Mary Martha – born May 12th, 1925 and died March 1st, 2000 - , David Franklin – born in 1928 - , Walter Ollie – born April 14th, 1933 and died March 24th, 2009 - , Jeffie Evelyn – born October 28th, 1930 and died October of 2000 - and Jack W. Butterworth – born June 1st, 1936 and died July 3rd, 1937.
As the oldest of his six siblings, William had to take on the father figure role in his family after his drunken father abandoned the family. William lived in Talladega until the age of twelve when, shortly after the birth of his brother Walter Ollie, the family moved to Mississippi. Among his siblings, William developed a close relationship to his sister Mary, and the were best friends up until his death in 1944.
In both Alabama and Mississippi, the Butterworth family lived in extremely impoverished conditions. William would often try to find jobs in construction, at grocery store or wherever able. Sometimes, when times were especially hard, the family would subsist on only collard greens for weeks at a time. Oftentimes, they would drink the water the greens had been cooked in for breakfast. Despite this though, sometimes William managed to save up enough money to buy the food he particularly enjoyed: cheese. He would save enough money to buy a large quantity of it and every once in a while he would eat so much that he got physically sick. Considering how little they had to eat generally, this made sense; he was enjoying a luxury he rarely got to have. As a child, William managed to get a grammar school level of education but working to help provide for his family took up most of his time.
William as a young man (left) and his mother Lizzie Mae (right) in a photo together.
When the war broke out in 1941, William traveled to Forrest County to enlist in the Army at Camp Shelby. On August 24th, 1942, he enlisted into the 35th Division, 134th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, G Company, 2nd Platoon of the United States Army. He underwent training at Camp Shelby in the two years leading up to his deployment to France and married a woman named Lela, whom he would later divorce while overseas. Whilst he was away, Lela ended up cheating on him and he learned about this when he was told that she had contracted STD"s while he was in Europe.