Butz, Earl L.
1974 TLS by the controversial Nixon-Ford Agriculture Secretary to a prominent White House newspaper correspondent
Autograph ID: 7071
Condition: Very Good
Description: “(1909-2008) Indiana-born controversial US Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Nixon and Ford, his policies favored large-scale corporate farming and an end to New Deal programs. He is best remembered for a series of verbal gaffes that eventually cost him his job. Brought up on a dairy farm, he graduated from Purdue University 1932 with a 1937 doctorate in agricultural economics. In 1954, he was appointed Asst. Secretary of Agriculture by President Eisenhower and named chairman of the US delegation to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, departing in 1957 to become Dean of Agriculture at Purdue. In 1968, he was promoted to Dean of Education and VP of Purdue’s research foundation. In 1971, President Nixon named him Secretary of Agriculture, continuing to serve after Nixon resigned in 1974 under President Ford to 1976. At USDA, Butz abolished an FDR program that paid corn farmers to not plant all their land to prevent national oversupply and low corn prices. He told farmers to “get big or get out”, coinciding with the rise of major agribusiness corporations and declining small family farm financial stability. In 1972, the USSR, suffering disastrous harvests, purchased 30M tons of US grain. Butz helped to arrange that sale to boost crop prices and bring restive farmers into the GOP fold. He was recognized as the person who started the abundance of corn in US diets. At the 1974 World Food Conference in Rome, he made fun of Pope Paul VI’s opposition to birth control by quipping, in a mock Italian accent: “He no playa the game, he no maka the rules.” The White House requested he apologize. Butz resigned Oct. 4, 1976 after a 2nd gaffe. News outlets revealed a racist dirty joke remark he made aboard a commercial flight to California after the 1976 GOP convention. Butz returned to Indiana, named dean emeritus of Purdue’s School of Agriculture. On May 22, 1981, he pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion charges for having under-reported income he earned in 1978. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison (all but 30 days suspended), fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $61,183 in civil penalties. Butz continued to serve on corporate boards and speak on agricultural policy. At his death, he was the oldest living former Cabinet member from any administration.
TLS “Earl” on 9 x 7 official letterhead as Secretary, Washington, May 6 1974, white embossed seal at top left, to Edgar A. Poe, Washington Correspondent, New Orleans Times-Picayune. Butz was pleased to be Poe’s guest at the recent White House Correspondents’ Dinner, praises the organization, and is happy to know that Poe’s son is an Agriculture Department employee. In an initialed postscript, Butz adds: “P.S. If the invitation to ride with the V.P. [soon-to-be-President Gerald Ford] to Baton rouge doesn’t come through in a few days, let me know. EB”.
EDGAR ALLEN POE (1906-1998) Longtime Washington correspondent of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, past president of the White House Correspondents Association and the Gridiron Club. He joined the staff of the Times-Picayune in 1930, became its Washington correspondent in 1948, and also wrote a column, “Washington Panorama,” for the paper until he retired in 1994. He attended every national political convention from 1940-88, missing the 1944 conventions as he was a WW II war correspondent in the Pacific covering Louisiana and Mississippi units. He ended the war aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, witnessing the Japanese surrender and was one of the 1st reporters to tour Hiroshima. Poe began his 7-decade newspaper career in Alabama before joining the Times-Picayune. After working for its southern Mississippi bureau, he began covering Louisiana politics, and was said to have been one of the few reporters whom Huey Long had any use for. ”