Alexander Butterfield

From Academic Kids

Alexander Porter Butterfield (born April 6, 1926) was the deputy assistant to Richard Nixon from 1969 until 1973. He was a key figure in the Watergate scandal.


Flying career

Butterfield was born at 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 Air Force where he was accepted. He flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning in the Pacific Theater. He remained flying with the USAF after the end of the war. In 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 as senior Defense Department representative in Australia with the rank of Colonel.

White House assistant

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 and 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 responsibility was the United States Secret Service, which included the operations of the secret taping system which Nixon had installed in the White House.

Taping system

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 voluntarily to tell the committee of the system but had decided before the hearing that he would have to if asked a direct question.

As it happened, Butterfield was asked the direct question by the minority (Republican) counsel, Donald G. 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." All present recognised 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.


Butterfield was not involved in the Watergate cover-up and was therefore not prosecuted. He remained at the FAA under 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."


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