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Emil William “Butch” Holiner

December 5, 2013

Emil William “Butch” Holiner, 65, passed away unexpectedly on November 27, 2013, at his childhood home in Starkville, Mississippi.  He had returned to celebrate Thanksgiving with family. 

Born on May 20, 1948, in Chicago, Illinois, Butch was the first son of Emile and Patricia Holiner.  After his parents divorced, he moved to Starkville, Mississippi in 1954 where his stepfather, Lyell Behr, would become the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Mississippi State University.  Butch spent his childhood playing in and around the campus and as a teen he worked various jobs around Starkville.  He graduated from Starkville High School in 1966 and began his studies at Mississippi State.

In 1968, he postponed his college career to serve his country as a hospital corpsman in the United States Navy.  After four years taking care of injured Vietnam soldiers, Butch earned an honorable discharge in 1972, having attained the rank of Second Class Petty Officer.  He returned to Starkville and graduated from Mississippi State in 1975 with a B.A. in Communication.  He went on to attend the University of Mississippi School of Law, graduating with a J.D. in 1979. While at Mississippi, Butch was editor of the Journal of Space Law.

In 1979, Butch joined the United States Army as a lawyer in the JAG Corps and was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.  He was honorably discharged as a Captain in 1982.  Butch’s legal career continued with a four year stint as Assistant District Attorney in Bexar County, Texas.  He then went into private practice where he was one of the few lawyers to be both state and nationally board certified in criminal defense.  When he retired in 2005, he was considered by many to be one of the most successful criminal defense attorneys in San Antonio.

In 2000, he and Dr. John Downs of San Antonio formed Holiner & Downs, Inc. and purchased 100 acres of land outside of D’Hanis, Texas.  They named it Deer Creek Ranch and turned it into a wildlife management property.  Butch served as president of the corporation and spent the majority of his time at the ranch from his retirement until his death.

Throughout his busy career, Butch found time for family as well.  In 1982, he married Renee Sexton of San Antonio who he remained married to for 27 years.  They had two sons: Matthew Emil Holiner and Nathan Brendan Holiner.  He always enjoyed spending time with his boys and he considered them his greatest achievement.

Butch was an avid hunter and fisherman and always enjoyed a good book or movie.  He was a die-hard fan of the Mississippi State Bulldogs and frequently watched their games on TV or attended them in person.  He also cared deeply about academics at MSU.  A MSU Patron of Excellence, Butch established and funded the L.C. Behr Scholarship in the Department of Chemistry and the Hank Flick Outstanding Service Scholarship in the Department of Communication. 

Butch is predeceased by his father, Emile Holiner, and his stepfather, Lyell Behr.  He is survived by his mother, Patricia Behr of Silverthorne, Colorado, and two sons: Matthew Holiner, currently a graduate student in the Mississippi State Department of Geosciences, and Nathan Holiner of San Antonio, Texas.  Sibling survivors include Patricia Daley of Richmond, Virginia, Christopher Behr of Starkville, Mississippi, and Barbara Behr of Tampa, Florida.

A memorial service will be held in the Chapel of Memories on the campus of Mississippi State University at 11am on Sunday, December 15th.  Burial will follow at Oktibbeha Memorial Gardens in Starkville.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations made in Butch’s memory to the Department of Communication at Mississippi State.  They can be reached by phone at 662-325-8033.  An online guestbook is being made available at

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