The University of Missouri graduate student who made national headlines last week with a hunger strike is from Omaha.
Jonathan Butler refused food in an effort to have University System President Tim Wolfe removed from office over Wolfe’s response to issues of racism, sexism and bigotry on campus. Wolfe resigned Monday, and Butler announced that he had ended his hunger strike.
Butler is one of three children of Eric and Cynthia Butler, pastor and co-pastor at Joy of Life Ministries, 6401 N. 56th St. Eric Butler is the executive vice president for marketing and sales of Union Pacific. A church representative said Monday that the Butlers were in Missouri with their son.
Jonathan Butler, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Missouri, is pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy. He told the Washington Post that he credits his family for his focus on activism.
“They used their talents, my mother both in education and my father having a law background, really to do advocacy for the community,” he said, “and I think as a young child, that’s where it started.”
Butler was the starting right tackle on Omaha Central’s state championship football team in 2007. He graduated from Central in 2008.
Jay Ball, the head football coach and a teacher at Central, said the coaching staff called Butler “JB.” Ball was Butler’s coach for two years.
“He was one of the hardest working kids I’d ever been around,” Ball said.
Butler told the Washington Post that he had been a victim of racism on campus, including being called racial slurs and having the n-word written on his dorm room door.
“For me, it really is about a call for justice,” he said. “I’m fighting for the black community on campus because justice is worth fighting for. And justice is worth starving for.