Alexander Porter Butterfield (born April 6, 1926) is a retired U.S. military officer, public servant, and businessman. He served as the deputy assistant to President Richard Nixon from 1969 until 1973. He was a key figure in the Watergate scandal, but was not personally involved in any wrongdoing, and was not investigated or prosecuted. He later became Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Flying career[edit | edit source]

Alexander Butterfield was interviewed by Nixon Library director Timothy Naftali on 07/27/2011 the interview can be seen on C-span's website here: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Butter . He mentions two minutes into the interview that some details repeated this bio are incorrect, particularly citing that he is not a WWII veteran and has never flown a P-38 and never flew under Emmett Odonnell, but was instead Aide de camp to the general many years after the war.

Butterfield was born in Pensacola, Florida where his father, Horace B. Butterfield, was a pilot for the United States Navy. He grew up in Coronado, California. Butterfield became fascinated by flying, and during World War II, when he failed the Naval Academy's eye test, went to the United States Army Air Force, where he was accepted. He flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning in the Pacific Theater. He remained flying with the USAAF and the United States Air Force after the end of the war. In the Vietnam War, he commanded a squadron of low-level reconnaissance aircraft and won the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1968 he was project officer for the General Dynamics F-111 and a senior Defense Department representative in Australia with the rank of Colonel.

During his military career, he also earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland in 1956, and a Master of Science degree from George Washington University.[1]

White House assistant[edit | edit source]

H. R. Haldeman, the chief of staff to President-elect Richard Nixon, knew Butterfield from having studied with him at the University of California, Los Angeles. Haldeman invited him to take early retirement from the USAF and become Deputy Assistant to the President. Butterfield was highly regarded for his dedication to the job which led him to work very long hours. He was a deputy to Haldeman, and aside from routine matters such as visitor tours of the White House, Butterfield provided briefing papers for the President. Among his responsibilities was the setting of Nixon's schedule and the maintenance of his historical records, which included the operations of the secret taping system which Nixon had installed in the White House.[2]

Taping system[edit | edit source]

When Nixon was re-elected, Butterfield was appointed on December 19, 1972 as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. He was routinely asked to appear before the United States Senate committee headed by Sam Ervin and was interviewed by staff of the committee on July 13, 1973, prior to going before the Senators. John Dean had previously mentioned that he suspected White House conversations were taped, and the committee was therefore routinely asking witnesses about it. Butterfield did not want to voluntarily tell the committee of the system, but had decided before the hearing that he would, if asked a direct question.

As it happened, Butterfield was asked the direct question by the minority (Republican) counsel, Donald Sanders. He told the staff members that "everything was taped ... as long as the President was in attendance. There was not so much as a hint that something should not be taped."[3] All present recognized the significance of this disclosure, and Butterfield was hastily put before the full Committee on July 16 to put the taping system on the record. Chief Minority Counsel, Fred Thompson, notably asked "Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?"

Post-Watergate[edit | edit source]

Butterfield was not involved in the Watergate cover-up and was therefore not prosecuted. He remained at the FAA under new President Gerald Ford until he resigned on March 31, 1975. He then became a business executive.

Butterfield was among those who correctly guessed the identity of Watergate informant "Deep Throat" prior to the disclosure in 2005. He told The Hartford Courant in 1995, "I think it was a guy named Mark Felt."

Butterfield's son, Alexander Butterfield Junior, is in the US Navy.


References[edit | edit source]

  1. Entry on Butterfield from the Nixon Presidential Library
  2. "Entry on Butterfield from Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. http://www.webcitation.org/5kwDf4LMA. 
  3. Kutler, Stanley I. (2000). Abuse of Power. Simon and Schuster. pp. 638. ISBN 0-684-86489-4. 
Government offices
Preceded by
John H. Schaffer
Federal Aviation Administrator
1973–1975
Succeeded by
John L. McLucas

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