Former Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler passed away on Sunday, March 20, according to a news release from the Sheriff's Office.
The 84-year-old man passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, according to the press release.
Butler served as Sheriff of Cumberland County for 22 years, from 1994 to 2016. Prior to being elected as sheriff, Butler worked as a district supervisor with the North Carolina Department of Probation and Parole. He was one of the longest-serving Sheriffs in North Carolina.
Prior to working in law enforcement, Butler was a football player who went on to play for UNC and eventually the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In 2019, the Sheriff’s Training Center was renamed in honor of Earl R. Butler. Wright was the one to submit that nomination.
“Building dedications should be done while someone is alive so they can appreciate it, like we appreciate them," Wright said at the time.
In 2021, the name of Princeton Street in the Massey Hill community was changed to Moose Butler Lane in honor of Butler. Butler grew up in the Massey Hill neighborhood.
A Public Viewing will be held on Wednesday, March 23 at Rogers and Breece Funeral Home, 500 Ramsey Street Fayetteville, from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. A Celebration of Sheriff Earl R. Butler's Life Services will be on Thursday, March 24, at 2 p.m. at Massey Hill Baptist Church. There is limited seating. The interment will follow with a private graveside service.
The family requests that memorials be made to Falcon Children's Home 7569 N. West Street Falcon, NC 28342 and the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center 123 W. Franklin Street, Suite 510, Chapel Hill, NC 27516.
County Commissioner Chairman Glenn Adams has ordered all flags at County facilities to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Moose. The flags will remain at half-staff until Butler's funeral.
"On behalf of Cumberland County, I send our deepest condolences to the Butler family. We have lost a gentle giant of a man. First and foremost, Sheriff Butler cared about people. He was a fair and just man who thought about the whole county and how to make it the best place to live for everyone. We will miss him," Adams said in a press release.
Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin also gave his condolences to the Butler family in a statement.
"Today, many hearts of our community are saddened by the passing of Former Sheriff Earl Moose Butler. Sheriff Butler contributed tremendously to the safety and security of our community with his decades of public service. We are rarely given an opportunity to work with a true servant like Moose Butler. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sheriff Butler’s family and loved ones."
Governor Roy Cooper tweeted that Butler was a strong friend and leader.
"Sheriff Moose Butler was a true public servant who worked diligently to protect the health & safety of the people of Cumberland County. I’m grateful for our decades of friendship, his strong leadership across our state and the real difference he made in the lives of so many," Cooper said.
Cumberland County Schools will comply with the order to fly flags at half staff in concert with other Cumberland County facilities until Butler's Celebration of Life on Thursday.
"We were saddened to learn that former Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler passed away on Sunday, March 20, 2022. A distinguished alumnus of Massey Hill High School and tremendous public servant, Sheriff Butler was instrumental in expanding the School Resource Officer (SRO) program in Cumberland County Schools. We extend our heartfelt sympathy and prayers to the Butler family during this challenging time," Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. said.
"The passing of former Cumberland County Sheriff Early Ray "Moose" Butler is a terrible loss to our community. Sheriff Butler was a legend in Cumberland County; as kind as he was strong, as fair as he was tough. During his 22-year tenure as Cumberland County's chief law enforcement officer, Sheriff Butler oversaw many of the positive changes in effect today. In many ways, he set the standard for modern policing in this state and left a legacy that will live long after him. Dion and I mourn with the family and friends of Sheriff Butler as well as the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department during this difficult time," Sen. Ben Clark's statement read.