- Earl Butz
Infobox US Cabinet official
name= Earl Butz
United States Secretary of Agriculture
January 21 1971
October 4 1976
Clifford M. Hardin
John A. Knebel
birth_date= birth date|1909|7|3
Albion, Indiana, United States
death_date= death date and age|2008|2|2|1909|7|3
Washington, D.C., United States
Albion, Indiana, Butz worked on his parents' convert|160|acre|km2|sing=on farm while growing up. He was an alumnus of Purdue Universitywhere he was a member of Alpha Gamma RhoFraternity. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculturein 1932, and then a doctorate in Agricultural Economics in 1937. He was the uncle of NFLplayer Dave Butz.
In 1948, Butz 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. In 1954, he was appointed Assistant
Secretary of Agricultureby President Dwight D. Eisenhower. That same year he was also named chairman of the United States delegation to the Food and Agriculture Organizationof 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 Nixonappointed Butz as Secretary of Agriculture, a position in which he continued to serve after Nixon resigned as the result of the Watergate scandalin 1974. In his time heading the USDA, Butz revolutionized federal agricultural policy and reengineered many New Dealera farm support programs. His mantra to farmers was "get big or get out," and he urged farmers to plant commodity crops like corn "from fencerow to fencerow." These policy shifts coincided with the rise of major agribusiness corporations, and the declining financial stability of the small family farm.
Butz took over the Department of Agriculture during the last period in American history that food prices climbed high enough to generate political heat. His legacy would be to make sure that never happened again. In 1972 Russia, suffering disastrous harvests, purchased 30 million tons of American grain. Butz had helped to arrange that sale in the hope of giving a boost to crop prices in order to bring restive farmers tempted to vote for George McGovern into the Republican fold. [ Pollan, Michael. 2006. Omnivore's Dilemma. Penguin Press ]
He was featured in the documentary
King Corn (film), highlighted as the person who started the rise of corn production, large commercial farms, and the overabundance of corn in American diets.
candals and resignation
At the 1974
World Food Conferencein Rome, Butz made fun of Pope Paul VI's opposition to " population control" by quipping, in a mock Italian accent: "He no playa the game, he no maka the rules." [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,908948,00.html "Quiet Please,"] "TIME Magazine," December 9, 1974]
A spokesman for Cardinal Cooke of the New York archdiocese demanded an apology, and the White House requested that he apologize. [http://www.believermag.com/issues/200310/?read=article_dean "Children of the Corn Syrup,"] Shea Dean, "The Believer," October 2003.] Butz issued a statement saying that he had not "intended to impugn the motives or the integrity of any religious group, ethnic group or religious leader."
Butz resigned his cabinet post on
October 4 1976after a second gaffe. News outlets revealed a racist remark he made in front of entertainer Pat Booneand former White House counsel John Deanwhile aboard a commercial flight to Californiafollowing the Republican National Convention. The October 18 1976issue of "Time" [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,946703-1,00.html reported the comment] while obscuring its vulgarity: [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,946703-1,00.html "Exit Earl, Not Laughing,"] "Time", October 18, 1976.]
:"Butz started by telling a dirty joke involving intercourse between a dog and a
skunk. When the conversation turned to politics, Boone, a right-wing Republican, asked Butz why the party of Lincoln was not able to attract more blacks. The Secretary responded with a line so obscene and insulting to blacks that it forced him out of the Cabinet last week and jolted the whole Ford campaign. Butz said that "the only thing the coloreds are looking for in life are tight p - - - - , loose shoes and a warm place to s - - -."
:"After some indecision, Dean used the line in
Rolling Stone, attributing it to an unnamed Cabinet officer. But New Times magazine enterprisingly sleuthed out Butz's identity by checking the itineraries of all Cabinet members."
While the Associated Press sent the uncensored joke over the wire, Columbia Journalism Review says that only two newspapers - the Toledo, Ohio Blade and the Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times published the remark unchanged. Others bowdlerized the quote, in some cases replacing the feline reference with "a tight [obscenity] " and the scatalogical reference with "a warm place to [vulgarism] ". The
Lubbock Avalanche-Journalsaid the original statement was available in the newspaper office; more than 200 stopped by to read it. The "San Diego Evening Tribune" offered to mail a copy of the whole quotation to anyone who requested it; more than 3,000 readers did.
Timothy Noahof "Slate", this incident was "epochal" because while prior to this, politicians assumed such offensive remarks could be uttered safely in private, after Butz's resignation, politicians "could no longer assume your fellow whites would protect you for telling a joke insulting to blacks, and you could no longer assume your fellow blacks would protect you for telling a joke insulting to Jews." [Timothy Noah, [http://www.slate.com/id/2183658 "Earl Butz, History's Victim: How the gears of racial progress tore up Nixon's Agriculture secretary"] , Slate.com, Feb. 4, 2008.]
The infamous quote was the origin of the movie title "Loose Shoes" which includes a skit "Darktown After Dark". In it, the quote is put to music in a lavish Big Band number.
Retirement and death
Butz returned to
West Lafayette, Indianaand was named dean emeritus of Purdue University's School of Agriculture. On May 22 1981, Butz pleaded guilty to federal tax evasioncharges, for having underreported income he had earned in 1978. On June 19he was sentenced to five years in prison; however, all but 30 days of the term were suspended. He was also fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $61,183 in civil penalties. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9400E1D9163BF936A15754C0A967948260 " Butz Released 5 Days Early"] , "Associated Press", July 25, 1981]
Butz died in his sleep on February 2, 2008, aged 98 at his son Bill's home in
Washington, D.C.. [Bob Scott, [http://jconline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080203/NEWS0501/802030328/1152/NEWS "Butz remembered as one of agriculture's biggest boosters"] , "Journal and Courier", February 3, 2008] At his death, Butz was the oldest living former Cabinet member from any administration.
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