Alexander Porter Butterfield is a retired U.S. military officer, public servant, and businessman. He served as the deputy assistant to President Richard Nixon (1969–73). He revealed the existence of White House tapes during the Watergate scandal investigation but had no involvement in the scandal.
Butterfield is the son of a United States Navy pilot and was born in Pensacola, Florida on April 6, 1926. Butterfield studied at the University of California, but during World War II he left to join the United States Air Force (USAF) and flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning in the Pacific War.
Butterfield remained in the USAF and also served in the Korean War and Vietnam War, where he won the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also served in Australia as a senior Defense Department representative. Later, he was a project officer for the General Dynamics F-111.
In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected as president of the United States. Nixon's chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, had studied with Butterfield at the University of California. Butterfield later claimed that Haldeman contacted him and suggested that he become Deputy Assistant to the President. However, Haldeman claimed that it was Butterfield who asked him for a job. Butterfield retired from the USAF and took up the post. Butterfield supervised internal security. This meant he had to work closely with the Secret Service. Butterfield also helped to organize the installation of the secret taping system in the White House.
In December 1972, Nixon appointed Butterfield as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. However, Butterfield was drawn into the Watergate Scandal after Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had interviewed Hugh Sloan. During the interview Sloan admitted that Butterfield had been in charge of "internal security." Woodward passed this information to a member of the Senate Committee headed by Sam Ervin.
On Friday, July 13, Butterfield appeared before the committee and was asked about if he knew whether Nixon was recording meetings he was having in the White House. Butterfield reluctantly admitted details of the tape system which monitored Nixon's conversations. Butterfield also said that he knew "it was probably the one thing that the president would not want revealed."
Richard Nixon was unable to resist pressure and on Oct. 23 he agreed to comply with a subpoena and began releasing some of the tapes. The following month a gap of over 18 minutes was discovered on the tape of the conversation between Richard Nixon and H. R. Haldeman from June 20, 1972. Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, denied deliberately erasing the tape.
On July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee adopted the first Article of Impeachment by a vote of 27-11. The Article charged Nixon with the obstruction of the investigation of the Watergate break-in. Two weeks later, three senior Republican congressmen, Barry Goldwater, Hugh Scott, and John Rhodes visited Nixon to tell him that they are going to vote for his impeachment. Nixon, convinced that he will lose the vote, decided to resign as president of the United States.