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Earl Butz

From Academic Kids

Earl Lauer Butz (born July 3, 1909) is a former United States government official who served as Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Born in Albion, Indiana, Butz is an alumnus of Purdue University, receiving first a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture in 1932, then a doctorate in agricultural economics in 1937. In 1948, he became vice president of the American Agricultural Economics Association, and three years later was named to the same post at the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

Butz was appointed Assistant Secretary of Agriculture by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954, and in that same year was also named chairman of the United States delegation to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He left both of the aforementioned posts in 1957, when he became the Dean of Agriculture at his alma mater, Purdue University; in 1968 he was promoted to the positions of Dean of Education and vice president of the university's research foundation.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed Butz as Secretary of Agriculture, a position in which he continued to serve after Nixon resigned as the result of the Watergate scandal in 1974. In 1976, Butz became the center of a controversy himself, when it was revealed that he frequently told jokes that demeaned various racial and religious groups; he reportedly ridiculed Pope Paul VI for his stand on birth control, quipping that "he no playa da game, he no maka da rules," drawing fire from Roman Catholics, especially those of Italian-American heritage. He was forced to resign after allegedly saying "I'll tell you what the coloreds want. It's three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit." while on board Air Force One during Ford's unsuccessful re-election campaign. The negative publicity forced Butz to resign from his Cabinet post on October 4, 1976.

On May 22, 1981, Butz pleaded guilty on federal tax evasion charges, for having underreported income he had earned in 1978. On June 19 he was sentenced to five years in prison; however, all but 30 days of the term was suspended. He was also fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $61,183 in civil penalties.

As of 2004, Butz is the oldest living former Cabinet member, regardless of department or administration served in.


Preceded by:
Clifford M. Hardin
United States Secretary of Agriculture
1971–1976
Succeeded by:
John A. Knebel

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