Butler was born in Good Hope, Louisiana then settled down in Patterson, Saint Mary Parish, Louisiana. David Butler was the eldest of eight children born to a carpenter father and a missionary mother. During his adult life, he worked in saw mills until an on the job injury occurred, forcing him into retirement.
Soon after his injury, Butler began making sculptures of vividly painted mermaids, flying elephants and cowboys from snipped discarded roofing tin. Many pieces were painted on both sides. Inspired by God, according to Butler, he covered his house and windows with his art, and created an environmental display outside his home. Many of his works have moving parts and often incorporate found objects into their design. Butler was featured in the 1982 Corcoran Show entitled “Black Folk Art in America, 1930-1980.”