Harvard University senior Jay Butler is making news again on campus as the winner of this year Rhodes scholarship for Bermuda.

This time some of the spotlight is shining on his illustrious 19th Century American ancestors, who attended Harvard during a time when education was denied the vast majority of African-Americans.

Weeks after the story about his Rhodes success appeared in the Harvard Crimson, the Harvard University Gazette — the university’s official newspaper — has featured the 22-year-old Mr. Butler on its cover. Harvard students figure prominently among Rhodes scholar recipients, with at least 319 winning the award since it was established in 1902, according to the Gazette. Mr. Butler is Harvard’s only recipient for 2006.

Mr. Butler, who graduates from Harvard in May with a degree in history, will be off to Oxford University in September to study law as a Rhodes scholar.

The Gazette said that studying at Harvard is “something of a tradition in Butler’s family.” His great-great-grandfather George Franklin Grant, the son of former slaves, graduated from Harvard’s dental school in 1870 and later became the university’s first faculty member.

His great-grandfather also graduated from Harvard’s dental school.

Mr. Butler comes by that impressive legacy through his grandmother Boston-born Georgine Hill, who arrived in Bermuda in 1940 as the wife of Bermudian Hilton Hill, and who later made her mark on the art scene by becoming the first formally trained artist to teach in the government school system.

Invented the golf tee

Her grandfather George Franklin Grant was not only a dentist and pioneer in the treatment of cleft palate, he was an avid golfer, who invented the first golf tee. His invention was patented in 1899. Harvard University president Charles Eliot was one of his patients — Eliot House, the residence where Mr. Butler is currently living, is named after him.

Dr. Grant was instrumental in persuading his future son-in-law to switch from medicine to dentistry and Alfred Russell became the second Harvard-educated dentist in the family. Dr. Alfred Russell and Maybelle Grant were Georgine Hill’s parents.

Mr. Butler is named after Maybelle’s grandfather John Jay Smith, who was a Boston abolitionist. Boston was an important centre for anti-slavery activities and John Jay Smith’s barbershop was a meeting place for black and white abolitionists and fugitive slaves seeking a haven in the north. John Jay Smith’s former home in Beacon Hill is now on Boston’s Black Heritage trail.

On the Hill side of his family, Mr. Butler is a descendant of Samuel David Robinson, a prominent Hamilton businessman who was a founder of The Berkeley Institute, and Hilton Hill Sr, who was also a businessman and a member of Parliament Mr. Butler is the son of paediatrician Dr. June Hill and Youth and Sports Minister Dale Butler.

Mr. Butler is doing his undergraduate thesis at Harvard on two 19th Century Bermuda families.

He plans to study law at Oxford on his Rhodes scholarship and he told the Harvard Gazette he plans to specialize eventually in human rights.

This week, Georgine Hill said it’s no surprise that Mr. Butler has a strong interest in human rights law. Both he and younger brother Russell were told about the contributions of their ancestors from an early age and were raised with the expectation that they would have to do their part to continue the legacy.

“That’s the way they were raised — they have a responsibility to carry on the tradition of the family by making a contribution to the community,” she said.