M. Caldwell Butler, former Republican congressman from Roanoke, dies at 89

M. Caldwell Butler, a five-term Republican congressman from Roanoke who helped draft the impeachment articles for President Richard M. Nixon in 1974, died July 29. He was 89.

The death was confirmed by former Virginia attorney general Richard Cullen, who served as Mr. Butler’s press secretary in Congress. The cause and place of death were not immediately available.

Mr. Butler, a lawyer from Roanoke, was elected in 1972 to represent Virginia’s 6th Congressional District. He was a supporter of Nixon throughout the campaign, but he grew disillusioned when he learned of the extent of the Watergate political scandal and coverup.

“For years we Republicans have campaigned against corruption and misconduct in the administration of the government of the United States by the other party,” Mr. Butler said in announcing his stance. “But Watergate is our shame. Those things happened in the Republican administration while we had a Republican in the White House, and every single person convicted to date has one way or the other owed allegiance to the Republican Party.

“We cannot indulge ourselves the luxury of patronizing or excusing the misconduct of our own people.”

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he studied the Watergate matter closely and helped draft the articles of impeachment.

Nixon resigned in August 1974 before the full House debated his impeachment.

In a 1998 interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Butler said he was convinced that he did the right thing. “I never had any reservation then or now that it was an appropriate vote,” he said.

He said most of the letters he received were supportive, and he had little trouble getting reelected.

But a letter from his mother, a GOP loyalist, was not so encouraging. His political future “will go down the drain,” she wrote, “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.”

Other Republicans put considerable pressure on Mr. Butler to maintain strict party solidarity, and he found it difficult to get favorable committee assignments.

Mr. Butler was a traditional conservative, he opposed the expansion of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that African Americans could vote more easily in Virginia.

But by the start of the 1980s, he found his occasionally centrist positions out of sync with the increasing social conservatism of the GOP. Mr. Butler was not against abortion rights, for instance, and opposed a constitutional amendment to ban busing to achieve school desegregation.

He did not seek reelection in 1982.

Two years later, he made a short-lived run for Virginia governor.

In 1989, Mr. Butler was proposed as chairman of the Legal Services Corp., a federal service to provide legal representation to the poor. He was opposed by conservative fundraisers and some Republicans in Congress, and his nomination did not get off the ground.

Manley Caldwell Butler was born in Roanoke on June 22, 1925, and served in the Navy during World War II. He was a 1948 graduate of the University of Richmond.

After graduating from law school at the University of Virginia in 1950, he returned to his home town to practice law.

He served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1962 to 1971 and was named minority leader.

His wife of 64 years, June Nolde Butler, died in June. Survivors include four children.

Mr. Butler’s district is now represented by Bob Goodlatte (R), who once served on Mr. Butler’s staff.

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