Skip to main content
Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Butler's Child

The Butler's Child

An Autobiography

Lewis M. Steel with Beau Friedlander

Thomas Dunne Books



The Butler's Child is the personal story of a Warner Brothers family grandson who spent more than fifty years as a fighting, no holds barred civil rights lawyer. Lewis M. Steel explores why he, a privileged white man, devoted his life to seeking racial progress in often uncomprehending or hostile courts. In fact, after writing a feature for The New York Times Magazine entitled "Nine Men in Black Who Think White," Lewis was fired from the NAACP and the entire legal staff resigned in support of him. Lewis speaks about his family butler, an African American man named William Rutherford, who helped raise Lewis, and their deep but ultimately troubled relationship, as well as how Robert L. Carter, the NAACP's extraordinary general counsel, became Lewis' mentor, father figure and lifelong close friend.

Lewis exposes the conflicts which arose from living and working in two very different worlds - that of the Warner Brothers family and that of a civil rights lawyer. He also explores his more than fifty year marriage that joined two very different Jewish and Irish American families.

Lewis' work with the NAACP and in private practice created legal precedents still relevant today. The Butler's Child is also an insider's look into some of the most important civil rights cases from the turbulent 1960's to the present day by a man still working to advance the civil rights which should be available to all.


Shortly after Jack Warner, cofounder of Warner Bros. Studios, double-crossed his brothers, Harry and my grandfather Major, in May 1956 by secretly arranging to buy back his Warner Bros. stock and take over as president,...

Reviews from Goodreads

Lewis M. Steel with Beau Friedlander

LEWIS M. STEEL worked as a lawyer for the NAACP and is now Senior Counsel to Outten & Golden LLP. He works on a range of class action cases involving sexual and racial discrimination and overtime claims. His precedent-setting decisions include Sumitomo Shoji America, Inc. v. Avagliano, 457 U.S. 176, which established that American subsidiaries of foreign corporations must obey American civil rights laws. He lives in New York.

Beau Friedlander's writing has appeared in many publications including Time, Harpers Magazine, and The Paris Review. He was the founder of Context Books, served as editor in chief at Air America Media, and currently works at The Intercept. He lives in Brooklyn.

image of Lewis M. Steelo
Ellen Weissberg Gould

Lewis M. Steel

Thomas Dunne Books

Latest on Facebook