David Adrian Butcher was born April 27, 1919 in Knoxville, Tennessee. His mother, Lillian May Lawhorn, was a homemaker and his father, Lee, a street railway conductor.
The family moved to Pontiac, Michigan, where the father went to work for Ford. He died of tuberculosis in January 1925, leaving his widow with six children between the ages of 2 and 16 and a baby on the way.
By the time of the April 1930 Census the three youngest children — David, 10; Roy, 7; and Joyce, 4 — were living at the Protestant Orphan Asylum of Detroit. The asylum cared for children who were orphans as well as for those whose parents were simply unable to care for them. Among the second group, parents paid what they could — if anything. The same Census showed their mother and a 14-year-old brother, Lee, living a few miles north in Highland Park. The mother was an inspector at an auto factory and the brother both a student and employed at an auto trade school.
Ten years later, David Butcher was also living in Highland Park, with a married sister and her young family. He had completed 8th grade and worked 32 weeks in 1939, earning $960 as an elevator operator at an office.
After filing an initial application in Detroit on March 7, 1940, he enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 1, 1940, and his brother Roy followed him into service on Feb. 15, 1941. Both were on battleships at Pearl Harbor when Japan attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.
Roy, aboard the Pennsylvania, survived. David, a fireman second class on the Arizona, was killed.
Roy served in the Navy until March 1945.
Sources: Census; Navy muster rolls; Michigan death certificate; grave markers; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs death file. Navy photo. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.