Caldwell Butler was elected to Congress in the Nixon landslide of 1972, but less than two years later, the President was entangled in the Watergate scandal and Butler was facing the most difficult decision of his political career.

As a freshman member of the House Judiciary Committee, he put his own political interests aside and voted to impeach Richard Nixon.

"And I hope they will understand that I have had the opportunity to look at the evidence and to listen to it, and have wrestled with this for an awfully long time," Butler told WDBJ7 in 1974, "that I think I was elected to bring my best judgment to bear on the problems and that this was my best judgment."

Butler was remembered Tuesday in Washington, as the news of his death reached a Judiciary Committee hearing.

"He was a man of tremendous principle," said California Representative Zoe Lofgren, "totally honest and totally brave in standing up for what he thought was right."

Michigan Congressman John Conyers agreed. "There are very few conservatives that I remember going back that far, as clearly as I remember him. He was an impressive member of Congress."

Current 6th District Congressman and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte once served on Butler's staff, and described him as a friend and mentor.

"He was a public servant in the truest sense of the word," Goodlatte said, "and he has given immeasurably to his country, his state and his community of Roanoke Virginia where he lived his entire life."

Before Butler's decade in Washington, he served in Richmond as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

And after his retirement from Congress, he returned to practice law with the Roanoke firm Woods Rogers.

Attorney James Jennings had the office next door.

"He had a clear vision of himself, his practice, the firm," Jennings told WDBJ7. "He knew what he was about. And he was one of those people that didn't talk often at meetings, but when he talked, we not only listened, but we usually ended up doing exactly what he said."

Former U.S. Attorney and Virginia Attorney General Richard Cullen served as Butler's spokesman during his 1972 campaign, and first term in Congress.

Speaking by phone from Richmond, Cullen said he and other staffers were in awe of Butler. His bravery in voting against the president, Cullen said, was an inspiration.

We expect to know more about funeral arrangements on Wednesday.


Caldwell Butler, a five-term Republican congressman from Virginia who voted for President Richard Nixon's impeachment, has died.

Former Virginia attorney general Richard Cullen and officials with Oakey's Funeral Service in Roanoke say Butler died Tuesday. The Roanoke resident was 89.

An attorney, Butler represented Virginia's 6th congressional district in the U.S. House from 1972 to 1982.

Watergate unfolded during his first term. He helped the House Judiciary Committee draft the Nixon 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.

Cullen served as Butler's press secretary during the impeachment proceedings.

Oakey's is in charge of arrangements, which are incomplete.

Butler's wife, June, died last month.

According to Butler’s Congressional biography, he was born in Roanoke on June 2, 1925 and graduated from Jefferson Senior High School. Click here to read the entire biography.

Butler graduated from the University of Richmond and earned a law degree from University of Virginia Law School. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946 and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1950.