Many community luminaries, musicians and artists were in attendance at the Aug. 6 city commission meeting for a particular item: the resolution to name the Truman Waterfront Amphitheater after local legend Lofton “Coffee” Butler. JT Thompson of Bahama Village — and creator of One Human Family — spoke before the commission in enthusiastic endorsement. Photographer, author and longtime collaborator Ralph DePalma, too, was in attendance. So were Butler’s family and friends, including cousin and Commissioner Clayton Lopez, who —along with the rest of the commission — voted in favor of the resolution.
The resolution was proposed by Commissioner Greg Davila, whose writing reflected the sentiment of the community in attendance, who applauded and shed tears after the vote. The resolution describes Butler as “an exceptional resident, whose talent and passion for entertainment is deserving of lasting recognition … Coffee Butler and his extended family have been an instrumental part of the cultural evolution of Key West into the ‘island of the arts’ as it is known today.” Davila called Butler a “music icon.”
Butler, who is 90 years old, has famously played for visiting dignitaries, including President Harry Truman and even The Beatles. His legacy lives on through the people whose lives he continues to touch through his charitable giving and his music. Butler continues to play at venues like the Little Room Jazz Club and Key West Theater. His music — perhaps most notably “The Beautiful Isle of Key West” — is familiar to longtime locals and visitors alike.