By 1928, Don left farming for factory work in nearby Hillsdale, MI. But as the Great Depression took hold, Don joined the ranks of unemployed and took what unskilled work he could find before landing a permanent job cutting fabric for men’s and boy’s trousers. He spent the next 11 years working in the garment factory and then joined the military at the outbreak of World War II.
While in the service, Don spent his off-duty hours drawing imaginary car designs. His colleagues were so impressed, they thought Butler had been a professional designer before the war. Although it was hard for Don to comprehend getting paid for something he had always done for fun, especially without a specialized education - his friends convinced him to make a post-war go for it.
Butler was encouraged by interviews at Ford and Chrysler in 1946. But, it was Hudson that fist added Don to their styling staff. His first assignment was adding finishing touches to the 1948 “step-down” Hudson. Soon Don moved to better opportunities at Willys-Overland where he worked on the Jeepster, Jeep station wagons and a Willys passenger car concept.
Next for Don was Nash in 1948, followed by a merger with Hudson and the formation of American Motors. By 1956 the fledgling AMC was having a rough time so Butler jumped to Chrysler and began his 18 year career in Highland Park. Don worked in interiors as well as body and ornamentation styling on all of Chrysler’s makes and models.Chrysler interior proposal with swivel seats - October, 1956After retirement in 1975, Butler became active as an automotive historian, authoring books on the history of Hudson, Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg, DeSoto and Plymouth.