Dad and Ike: military men who enjoyed painting

My father, Chaplain Lucas W. Buttry, served a career as an Air Force chaplain, his largest stretch with President Eisenhower as commander-in-chief.

I couldn’t help but think of Dad again and again as we wandered the grounds and home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farm Friday in Gettysburg, Pa.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Both grew up in small Midwestern towns, then saw the world serving in the U.S. military. Both liked TV Westerns. Both avoided political partisanship (well, until Ike joined the Republicans and ran for president). Both enjoyed painting.

Luke Buttry served in the Army Air Corps under Ike’s command in England during World War II. After going to college on the GI Bill and then graduating seminary, Dad served as an Air Force chaplain when Ike was commander-in-chief.

As a chaplain and later as a civilian minister, Dad was careful not to express political opinions or affiliations. He believed that ministers should preach the Gospel and minister to the needs of their people. Political affiliation would alienate people of whichever party he didn’t support, so Dad avoided taking sides. He was adept at making his sermons timely by addressing current issues without showing a consistent bias.

Ike was a political independent as a general, wooed by both parties as a presidential candidate following World War II. Even when he became a Republican to run for president, he was easily the least partisan president of my lifetime.

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The Eisenhower farm: a window to Ike’s and Mamie’s personalities

This weekend brings us to Gettysburg, PA. My companion is speaking to the Pennsylvania Press Conference tomorrow.

We got an early start, dropping Duffy de Dog at his dog resort in the morning so we could make it to Gettysburg in time for a tour of the Eisenhower Farm with the group in the afternoon.

The day was muggy and overcast, a good indicator of the storms that are rolling through a huge swath of the East tonight. But riding down the road next to my companion is one of my very favorite things to do, even if the beautiful green, rolling hills were not set off at their best. We had no trouble filling the time. We talked about our kids, the newspaper industry, my writing, the newspaper industry, the twist and turns of my companion’s career and, oh yeah, the newspaper industry. It was just starting to sprinkle when we arrived. Continue reading

A visit to the Eisenhower farm — and a lesson in leadership

General Dwight D. Eisenhower meeting with Generals Patton, Bradley, and Hodges in Germany, March 1945. Photo from

I have a suggestion for today’s politicians: Tour the retirement home of Dwight D. Eisenhower in Gettysburg, Pa. And ask for Park Ranger John Joyce to be your tour guide.

Dwight D. Eisenhower. Photo from

Ike’s leadership would be an example to leaders of both parties. In a time of extremism and conflict (remember McCarthyism?), he was a calming, unifying influence. He was a Republican who didn’t diminish or shrink from using government properly: to build our national infrastructure (the Interstate highway system) and to uphold civil rights. He knew how to end a war. He placed country above party. He thought big, but not about himself.

On a rainy afternoon, Joyce provided insights into Ike’s leadership style to a tour group of Pennsylvania editors visiting the Eisenhower National Historic Site outside Gettysburg. His guiding leadership principles, according to Joyce, author of the Ike Blog: Continue reading