Around the Senior Center, Shirley Gooding-Butler may be best known as a long time (10 year) member of the Foundation Board and, most importantly, as one of the “Martini Girls.” But Shirley’s life encompasses many other significant accomplishments.
Shirley was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, by her mother, as her father died when she was 5 months old. Shirley’s mother always stressed that she should do her best and people would see her good work. Shirley followed that advice and passes it on to young people today.
After attending public school in Nashville and receiving a degree in elementary education from Tennessee State University, Shirley achieved her goal of being a teacher and taught 3rd grade for five years. She moved to Tallahassee as the director of a volunteer program for delinquent children.
But Shirley’s primary career was in state government, where she served for 31 years in several capacities. For 12 years she worked in the Governor’s Office, under Governors Graham, Mixson, Martinez, and Chiles. She went on to be the Inspector General of the Department of Labor (the first African American woman to fill that position), progressing to be the Assistant Secretary and Agency Head. She also served on the Public Employee Relations Commission.
In retirement, Shirley stayed home for a while, but then opened and still operates Shirley’s Clothes Closet. She benefits residents of the south side by selling good quality, gently used clothing. If that’s not enough to keep her busy, she volunteers frequently with her church, especially with the youth, and has worked with Riley House, the Florida Bar and Citizen’s Forum. Her goal is to contribute to others by what she has learned and how it has helped her.
When asked why she remains so active, Shirley notes that life can stop after retirement. It is important to keep “going and doing and helping.” She advises seniors to continue a life of service. “Don’t let life pass you by; stay involved as much as you can.” Shirley Gooding Butler is certainly not letting life pass her by.
By Judy Shipman