Thirty-five years ago, family and friends filed into Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills, California, for a funeral Mass. After suffering a stroke and battling pneumonia, Charles Dawson Butler had died of a heart attack at age seventy-one. His colleagues served as pall bearers, and interment was at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. According to an eyewitness quoted in Keith Scott’s The Moose That Roared (2000), “Boy, his memorial service was packed.”

Best known by his stage name of Daws Butler, he created the voices that brought to life such cartoon characters as Huckleberry Hound, Elroy Jetson, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, and Yogi Bear. Along with Mel Blanc, the voice behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Tweety Bird, and Barney Rubble, Butler was one of the most prolific voice actors in the twentieth century. Both men established themselves during the 1940s, in the days of old-time radio, and they kept at it for decades, until their deaths in the late 1980s.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1916, Butler grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, and for his everyday voice, he had a neutral Midwestern accent. In the late 1930s he and two also less than tall (Butler was 5ʹ2ʺ) friends formed the Three Short Waves and performed in local nightclubs. Butler’s specialty was impressions of then famous people, notably film actors George Arliss, James Cagney, and Charles Laughton. During the Second World War, Butler served in naval intelligence in Washington, D. C., where he met the lady who would become his wife. From her neighbors in her native North Carolina, Butler learned a regional speech pattern that years later became the voice of Huckleberry Hound.

For five years in the early 1950s, Butler starred with Stan Freberg in Time for Beany. Voicing two puppets made by Butler’s wife, Butler and Freberg won Emmys as, respectively, an adventurous boy, Beany, and a seasick sea serpent, Cecil. That show’s success inspired other collaborations by Freberg and Butler.

In 1953, Freberg produced a record that parodied a popular radio and television program, Dragnet. “St. George and the Dragonet,” with Freberg as Saint George and Butler as a knave, became one of the first comedy records to sell more than a million copies. In an interview in 1986, Butler pointed out the Gold Record he and Freberg received for it and simply said, “which is a nice thing to have.”

In 1958, Freberg and Butler had another hit record with a satire of crass commercialism. In “Green Chri$tma$,” Freberg portrayed an updated version of Ebenezer Scrooge and Butler was Bob Cratchit. Amidst a musical refrain of “deck the halls with advertising,” Butler’s Cratchit says his little spice company in East Orange, New Jersey, plans to send out Christmas cards depicting the three Wise Men and saying only “Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men.” When Scrooge mocks him for being behind the times, Cratchit adds that people keep hoping companies “will remember . . . whose birthday we’re celebrating.”

By the late 1950s, Butler was also working with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, as well as with Jay Ward. For Hanna-Barbera, Butler developed some of his best-known characters. As he always insisted, being a voice actor meant more than putting on a funny voice; it was about creating a believable character. Yogi Bear’s voice, for example, was for Butler an expression of Yogi’s personality. As any comic actor will attest, making people laugh is serious business.

For Ward, as part of a weekly half-hour cartoon variety show featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle, Butler worked with great actors from radio such as June Foray, Paul Frees, and William Conrad. Butler’s contributions came in two segments, “Fractured Fairy Tales” and “Aesop and Son.” While Edward Everett Horton narrated dozens of warped versions of classic fairy tales, Butler provided the voices for dim-witted princes, bumbling knights, and numerous animals. With Charles Ruggles as Aesop retelling zany variations on ancient Greek fables, Butler was his son, a lad given to corny puns.

A profile in TV Guide from late February, 1962, observed that Butler, “with his mouth shut, bears a disquieting resemblance to ex-Vice President Richard M. Nixon. With his mouth open, however,” Butler, though “a registered Democrat, quickly becomes all things to all viewers.” It also noted that for his vast range of vocal talents, the father of four sons was reportedly making more than $150,000 a year.

Starting in 1975, Butler supplemented his income by giving lessons to young actors. Behind his stucco and tile bungalow in what he called “the poor part of Beverly Hills,” he had a studio for those acting workshops. That converted garage functioned also as a museum, containing Butler’s various awards and memorabilia.

In 2003, Joe Bevilacqua and Ben Ohmart compiled fifty-five scripts and other texts that Butler had written for his students. Published as Scenes for Actors and Voices, it presented another facet of Butler’s creative genius. In 2005 Ohmart and Bevilacqua published a biography of Butler, Daws Butler: Characters Actor. “Dramatically,” they wrote, “he did not have a sensational life; no ego, affairs, great tragedies, his was not an incredible rags-to-riches story.” Instead, they assured readers that, “Within this altruistic actor, there was a dignity, a caring soul and a superpower that shined greater than all the Brandos and Bogarts of entertainment history.”

In April, 1964, the Catholic News Service issued a press release about the annual meeting of the Mission Circles of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In addition to electing new officers and hearing reports, representatives to the meeting heard from Daws Butler. To be more accurate, they heard from his many characters. “They got a special growl from Yogi Bear,” the CNS reported, “and an especially meaningful exhortation from Quick Draw McGraw—‘Reach!’”

Butler’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times quoted him reflecting on his own character: “If I had an ego problem, it was early on in my career. . . . I felt I shouldn’t have to go through life as Huckleberry Hound. But then, (later) I thought I shouldn’t be ashamed of being known as Huckleberry Hound, either.”

The final curtain fell on a day in May in 1988. Thanks to the preservation of his cartoons, his recorded interviews, and his writings, Daws Butler’s many voices live on. His fans can hope that he forever is hearing his Good Shepherd’s voice.