PASSINGS: M. Caldwell Butler

 M. Caldwell Butler

Key in drafting Nixon impeachment articles


M. Caldwell Butler, 89, a five-term Republican congressman from Virginia who helped draft the impeachment articles for President Nixon, died Tuesday at Roanoke Memorial Hospital, according to Oakey's Funeral Service in Roanoke, Va. The cause was not given.

Butler represented Virginia's 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House from 1972 to 1982, a span that included the Watergate scandal. He helped the Judiciary Committee draft the impeachment articles and later voted for them, admitting it took a toll on his political career. Nixon resigned in August 1974 before the full House debated his impeachment.

In a 1998 interview with the Associated Press, Butler said he was convinced he did the right thing.

"I never had any reservation then or now that it was an appropriate vote," he said.

Butler said the pressure to toe the party line was intense, with most of it coming from Republicans outside of Washington.

The stack of letters he received after the vote were supportive, Butler said. One of them, from his mother, a GOP loyalist, wasn't.

She wrote that his future "will go down the drain if you do not stand with your party at this critical time."

"Dear Mother," he wrote back. "You are probably right. However, I feel that my loyalty to the Republican Party does not relieve me of the obligation which I have."

Butler, a lawyer, was reelected four times. He kept his Judiciary Committee seat but was denied other major committee assignments he sought. He considered running for governor in 1985, but GOP conservatives foiled his bid.

Manley Caldwell Butler was born June 2, 1925, in Roanoke. After serving stateside in the Navy during World War II, he received a bachelor's degree from Richmond College in 1948 and a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1950. He practiced law and served in the Virginia legislature before being elected to Congress.

—Times staff and wire reports