Pat Buttram (1915-1994) is one of Alabama's most recognized actors. He is best known for his roles, both live-action and animated, as a stereotypical "country" character. Although later in his career he contributed his distinctive voice to some of Walt Disney's most popular films, including The Aristocats, Robin Hood, and The Rescuers, he is probably best known for his role as Mr. Haney, the conniving owner of the rolling store on the Green Acres television series.
Maxwell Emmett "Pat" Buttram, was born on June 19, 1915, in Addison, Winston County, to Wilson McDaniel Buttram, a traveling Methodist minister, and Mary Emmett Maxwell. He was the second of two sons. In 1916, Buttram's family relocated to Nauvoo, in Walker County, after his father was hired to lead the Nauvoo Methodist Church. Buttram graduated from Mortimer Jordan High School in Morris, Jefferson County, and then entered Birmingham-Southern College to study for the ministry. While there, he became interested in the theater, and his performance in a play earned him an invitation to perform on a Birmingham radio station.
During a visit to the Chicago World's Fair in 1933, Buttram was interviewed in the audience at a live performance of the "WLS National Barn Dance" radio program. His wit and personality attracted the show's producers, and he was hired as a performer. Billed as the "Winston County Flash," Buttram performed comedy skits on the show for the next 13 years. In 1946, Buttram decided to try his luck in Hollywood. Originally hired as a sidekick to television cowboy star Roy Rogers, he was soon dropped from the show because it already featured two sidekicks. Buttram was then hired by Western movie star Gene Autry, whom Buttram had met while working on "Barn Dance," and went on to play roles in 40 movies and more than 100 episodes of the "Gene Autry Show," which aired from 1950 to 1956. In 1952, Pat married actress Sheila Ryan, and the couple would have one daughter.
Buttram began his film career during the early 1960s, playing characters in such films as the Elvis Presley vehicle Roustabout (1964). He also began branching out into other television shows after Autry's show ended its run, appearing as a guest on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. His big break came in 1965, when he was cast as Eustace Charlton Haney, the wheeling and dealing owner of a rolling store, on the television series Green Acres. For the next six years, Buttram appeared on the show as a charming con man who was always scheming to sell goods and services to lead actor Eddie Albert that he did not need or want.
As Green Acres began to lose popularity in 1970, Buttram began to cultivate a career as a voice actor and became a favorite of the Walt Disney Company. He, along with fellow Alabamian George Lindsey, provided the voices of characters in The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973), and The Rescuers (1977). He also starred in several films, including The Sacketts (a Western television film released in 1979).
In 1981, Buttram retired from films, but he remained in the public eye as a popular speaker and toastmaster. He earned stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Alabama Star of Fame walk in Birmingham. In 1982, he established the Golden Boot Awards, an annual fund-raising event that honors actors, directors, and others involved in making films in the Western genre. Buttram's last film contribution was as a voice character in A Goofy Movie (released in 1995).
Buttram died on January 8, 1994, in California. His body was returned to Alabama, and he was buried in the Maxwell Chapel
United Methodist Church Cemetery in Double Springs, Winston County.
Grabman, Sandra. Pat Buttram: The Rocking-Chair Humorist. Duncan, Okla.: BearManor Media, 2010.
Claire M. Wilson
Published July 6, 2009
Last updated December 4, 2012