Buttram was born in Addison in Winston County, Alabama, to Wilson McDaniel Buttram, a Methodist minister, and his wife Mary Emmett Maxwell. He had an older brother, Augustus McDaniel Buttram, and five other elder siblings. When “Pat” Buttram was a year old, his father was transferred to Nauvoo, Alabama. Buttram graduated from Mortimer Jordan High School, which was then located in Morris, Alabama, then entered Birmingham–Southern College to study for the Methodist ministry. Buttram performed in college plays and on a local radio station, before he became a regular on the “WLS National Barn Dance” in Chicago, Illinois. He also had his own program on CBS. Buttram went to Hollywood in the 1940s and became a “sidekick” to Roy Rogers. However, since Rogers already had two regulars, Buttram was soon dropped. He was then picked by Gene Autry, recently returned from his World War II service in the Army Air Force, to work with him. Buttram would co-star with Gene Autry in more than 40 films, and in over 100 episodes of Autry’s television show.
Buttram’s first Autry film was Strawberry Roan in 1948. In the late 1940s, Buttram joined Autry on his radio show, Melody Ranch and then on television with The Gene Autry Show. During the first television season, Buttram went by “Pat” or “Patrick”, with a variety of last names. From the second season forward, he used his own name. Buttram guest starred on three episodes of Walter Brennan’s ABC sitcom, The Real McCoys, including the role of Cousin Carl in the episode “Back to West Virginny” (July 27, 1961). In the story line, Amos, Luke, and Kate McCoy return to Smokey Corners, West Virginia, for the 100th birthday gathering of “Grandma McCoy”, played by Jane Darwell. Henry Jones guest starred in this segment as Jed McCoy. Buttram is remembered for his role as Mr. Haney (Eustace Haney) in the 1965–1971 CBS television comedy Green Acres. He did voice work for several Disney animated features, playing Napoleon (hound dog) in The Aristocats, the Sheriff of Nottingham (a wolf) in Robin Hood, Luke (swamp inhabitant) in The Rescuers, Chief (hunting dog) in The Fox and the Hound, and one of the Toon bullets in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He had a recurring role as the voice of Cactus Jake on Garfield and Friends. One of his last roles was a cameo in Back to the Future Part III. His final voice-over was A Goofy Movie, released a year after his death. Buttram made the oft-quoted observation about the 1971 “rural purge”, in which CBS cancelled many programs with a rural-related theme or setting: “CBS canceled everything with a tree — including Lassie”, referring to the cancellations of Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction.
In 1936, Buttram married Dorothy McFadden. The couple adopted a daughter but divorced in 1946. In 1952, he married actress Sheila Ryan; the marriage ended with her death in 1975. They had a daughter named Kathrine (nicknamed Kerry) born in 1954. Buttram retired from acting in 1980 and made his home in his native Winston County, Alabama. However, he soon returned to California, where he made frequent personal appearances. Buttram was a staunch Republican who helped Ronald W. Reagan spice up his speeches with political quips. In 1993, Buttram expressed surprise that with the inauguration of Bill Clinton and Al Gore as US President and Vice President, respectively, so many Hollywood actors were “taken with that whole country-boy image they tried to project.” According to his niece, Mary Buttram Young of Sheffield, Alabama, “Uncle Pat would always say, ‘I’m from Alabama – I can see right through that’.” Buttram died in 1994 at the age of seventy-eight of renal failure in Los Angeles, California. He is interred at the cemetery at the Maxwell Chapel United Methodist Church in the Pebble community near Haleyville, Alabama. Buttram was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and one on the “Alabama Stars of Fame” in Birmingham.
- June, 19, 1915
- Addison, Alabama
- January, 08, 1994
- Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
- renal failure
- Maxwell Chapel United Methodist Church Cemetery
- Double Springs, Alabama