As a small child, Cassius F. Butts began listening to vinyl records of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. promoting equality in America. At the time, he didn’t know who King was but was still moved by his words. In 1983, the year Martin Luther King Day was first recognized as a national holiday, the 12-year-old boy gave King’s famous “I Have A Dream Speech” at Richmond Elementary school in Orlando, Fla.
Butts had previously given speeches at his school and church. A few teachers and administrators selected him along with four other students to give the speech on the nation’s inaugural MLK Day.
“Dr. King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech laid the foundation for not just some unfulfilled few, it set the path and enhanced the presence of social justice for all mankind,” said Butts.
To this day America still struggles with racial equality, but entrepreneurs and activists like Butts are continuing to push forward in hopes of making a difference.
Butts moved from Orlando to Atlanta in 1989 to attend King’s alma mater Morehouse College. During his time at Morehouse, he was mentored by former Atlanta Mayor Maynard H. Jackson, a fellow Morehouse alum and student of the teachings of King.
Determined to make a difference, he wrote and conducted his graduate exit thesis on Atlanta’s Equal Business Opportunity Program, created by the former mayor.
After graduate school he started a consulting firm where he still holds the executive title. The firm helps people start and grow businesses free of charge. Butts had begun to pave the way for success, not only for himself, but for people who only needed a bit of direction and guidance.
“He’s a very bright gentleman in the great tradition of Morehouse, what makes him so unique is to have the perspective of a visionary, a public servant, and a very astute business person.” Dr. William F. Pickard, Chief Executive Officer of Regal Plastics Company, said about Butts. “That’s quite a collection, to have the visionary perspective, the public servant perspective, and the business acumen to do what he does every day.”
Pickard, one of Butts’ closest mentors, gave a speech at Morehouse College a few years ago where Butts was in attendance. Butts introduced himself and told Pickard that “he was motivated by his vision of operating his businesses as well as his directive of giving back to help aspiring entrepreneurs.”
In 2002, Butts was appointed the Presidential Management Fellow under the George W. Bush administration, making him the youngest Branch Chief in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development department’s history.
In 2010, he was asked to be the first African-American Region IV Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama. Butts and Obama first met in Illinois and shared a laugh about having unique first names.
“In 2007, I met my destiny in Dr. King’s vision yet to be fulfilled,” Butts explained about the first time he and the president met.
The team produced over 300 strategic alliances, creating organizations like the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Asian American Pacific Islander initiative, U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Women’s Business Council.
At his current role as Executive in Residence at Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business, Butts is responsible for building mentorships between students and the industries they are studying, connecting students with other entrepreneurs, and “seeking venture capital for student-led startups.”
He recently founded The Institute for Strategic Achievement, a nonprofit organization “that primarily engages C-suite executives, world leaders and business advocates in an effort to provide think tank solutions to domestic and international challenges.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the dynamic work of this humble leader’s vision become a reality,” said Tyra L. Paytes, founding board member of the organization said.
Butts credits his career to his faith in following his passion, starting from following the teachings of King. Every Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Holiday he finds a way to volunteer and brings his mentees along for the ride so they can also learn to make a difference.
This year Mr. Butts and his mentees, one law school graduate and two teenage girls, planned to attend the Ebenezer Church service, visit the National Center of Civil and Human Rights, and observe the speaking sessions at Morehouse College.
“Mr. Butts is a very knowledgeable and caring advisor. He combines his experience as a grassroots business leader and owner with his academic knowledge to provide proven and low risk guidance to help firms like mine grow,” said Dr. Louis Lynn, chairman of ENIRO Science Inc. “ENVIRO Science Inc. is 31 years old, and we rely on the input of Mr. Butts to help execute our succession plan. He has been especially helpful working with my daughters to transition the firm to a woman-owned business in infrastructure and construction markets. His faith and his integrity are evident in personal and professional interactions.”
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