YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — There’s a new book out called “First Citizen” that tells the story of Joseph G. Butler Jr. The title comes from Butler’s obituary in The Vindicator, which called him “Youngstown’s First Citizen.”
With a stack of his books and a promotional poster displayed on the shelves in his Canfield home, Joe Lambert — who co-authored “First Citizen” with the late Rick Shale — read a passage about Joseph Butler’s commitment to build a memorial in Niles to his childhood friend, William McKinley.
“The Mahoning Valley’s history and Butler’s life intertwined with those things,” Lambert says.
Lambert grew up in Girard, majored in history at Youngstown Stat University. For some time, he worked at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, where he was first introduced to Joseph Butler.
“The more you’re down there working in the archives, you really get a sense [of], ‘Hey, this Butler guy was the guy, he was involved in everything,” Lambert says.
Butler was born in Mercer County, where his father owned an iron furnace, but he grew up in Niles surrounded by the making of iron and steel. Butler later became a founding partner of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company.
“Obviously, so much of the history of the Mahoning Valley is rooted in the iron and steel industry. Joseph Butler’s career — let alone his life — is rooted in the iron and steel industry, and he was a player,” says Lambert.
Butler also led the fundraising effort to build St. Elizabeth Hospital. He also wrote the first history of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley — the three volumes of which sit prominently on Lambert’s shelves.
In October, Lambert will release his second book, a biography of David Tod, who was governor of Ohio during the Civil War and prominent leader in the early days of Youngstown.