Richard Austen Butler was a British Conservative politician who became famous when he was in charge of education from 1941 to 1945. He was in charge of the Education Act of 1944, which changed the way secondary schools in England and Wales taught. It is also known as the “Butler Act” because it was named after him. It made all schooling, especially secondary school, free for all students. In the 1950s, he was a key member of the Conservative Party and was a minister for a long time. He was from a well-known upper-middle-class family and went to Marlborough College and Pembroke College, Cambridge, for his education. As a young man, he became interested in politics, and in 1929, he was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Saffron Walden. Over the next few years, he held a number of junior ministerial jobs, and in 1941, he joined Winston Churchill’s wartime coalition as president of the board of education. In this job, he became well-known because of the Education Act, which made secondary education in the UK free for the first time. He became a well-known member of the Conservative Party and was Deputy Prime Minister in 1962. He wanted to be the Prime Minister, but this dream of his never came true.
Early years and childhood
Richard Austen Butler was born on December 9, 1902, in Attock Serai, Attock, India, which is now in Punjab, Pakistan. His parents were Sir Montagu Sherard Dawes Butler and Anne Gertrude Butler. Several people in his extended family were well-known teachers and public servants. He was more commonly called “Rab.”
As a child, he hurt his right arm, and it never fully healed. Because of this, he was unable to join the military, which hurt him in his political career.
He went to Marlborough College first, then to Pembroke College in Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society in 1924. The same year, he earned his BA. He taught French history from the 19th century at Cambridge for a short time.
Rab Butler’s Career
In 1929, in the general election, Rab Butler was chosen to be the Member of Parliament (MP) for Saffron Walden. He would stay in this job until 1965 when he retired.
He was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Samuel Hoare, who was the India Secretary, for a short time. In 1932, he got his first ministerial job as the Under-Secretary of State for India, which he did for the next five years.
In 1937 and 1938, he was the Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Labour.
In 1938, Neville Chamberlain’s government made him Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He stood by Prime Minister Chamberlain and the government’s policy of trying to make Nazi Germany happy.
Rab Butler’s first job in the Cabinet was as President of the Board of Education in the government of Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941. At the time, people thought that putting him on the Board of Education was a way to get him out of the more important Foreign Office. Still, Butler changed the way education was done in the country when he was in this position.
He helped get the Education Act of 1944 passed. This law was also known as the Butler Education Act. The act created three types of secondary schools: grammar schools, secondary technical schools, and secondary modern schools. It also made schooling free for students. It also made sure that the kids got free meals. The act made a big difference in how many students went to school.
In 1945, the Conservatives lost the general election, and after that, Butler worked to rebuild the party. From 1945 to 1964, he was the head of the Conservative Research Department.
In 1951, the Conservative Party took power again, and he was put in charge of the country’s finances. In this job, he mostly kept doing what Hugh Gaitskell, the Labour leader who came before him, did with the economy.
During the 1950s, Butler was in charge of the government on more than one occasion, both when Winston Churchill was in charge and when Anthony Eden took over. But Butler was not officially named the Vice Prime Minister.
When Eden stepped down as Prime Minister in 1957, the Conservative Party did not have a formal way to choose a new leader. So, it was up to the Queen to choose the new Prime Minister. After talking to people like Churchill, Edward Heath, and Lord Salisbury, she chose Harold Macmillan for the job. This was a letdown for Butler, who had been hoping to be chosen.
In 1957, the new Prime Minister, Macmillan, put Butler in charge of the Home Office. He was in charge of this job for five years. In 1962, a change in the government gave him the official titles of Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State.
When Macmillan got sick in October 1963, he gave up his job as Prime Minister. Again, Butler wanted to be the next Prime Minister, but Alec Douglas-Home was chosen instead.
Butler was put in charge of foreign affairs by the Home Administration. He did this job until 1965 when he became a peer.
In 1966, he became the first Chancellor of the University of Essex. From 1972 to 1975, he led the Committee on Mentally Abnormal Offenders, also known as the Butler Committee, which had a lot of attention.
A Big Job
When the Education Act of 1944 was passed, Rab Butler became well-known because he was in charge of it. The act set up the Tripartite System for secondary education and made secondary school free for all U.K. students for the first time. The act is thought to have made a huge difference in how many girls went to school.
Awards & Achievements
Rab Butler was given the title Baron Butler of Saffron Walden when he retired. This means that he will always be a peer.
Personal History and Legacies
In 1926, Rab Butler tied the knot with Sydney Elizabeth Courtauld. There were four of them. In 1954, his wife died of cancer.
He married Augustine Courtauld’s widow, Mollie Courtauld, in 1959.
He died in Essex on March 8, 1982, and is buried in the churchyard of Saffron Walden’s parish church of St. Mary the Virgin.
Estimated Net worth