Saturday, November 22, 2008

David C. Butler: Nebraska gets off to a rough start

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David Christy Butler was born in 1829 and had a background in agriculture and livestock. He grew up in Indiana, and his first brush with politics was his nomination by the Republican Party to run for the state senate in 1856. He eventually withdrew from that race, moved to Nebraska, and was elected to the territory's legislature in 1861. He was elected governor in 1866, again in 1868, and again in 1870.

The author of "Portrait & Biographical Album of Johnson and Pawnee Counties Nebraska" is clearly a friend of Butler, citing the governor's establishment of public buildings without legislative assistance after moving the state's capital to Lincoln. Excising the scandal that later befell Butler, the author praises his "financial sagacity in the management of the affairs of the state" and states that the governor "retired" from office.

In actuality, Butler was impeached on March 24, 1871 on 11 counts of improperly handing out loans that were targeted for education. After an impeachment trial, 10 of the counts were dismissed, but Butler was found guilty of a single count alleging private use of approximately $16,000 from the sale of public lands. Butler was removed from office on June 2, 1871 and replaced by Secretary of State William Hartford James, who had been serving as the interim governor following the impeachment.

In the end, Butler had a soft landing. The impeachment charges were expunged from his record by the state senate in 1877, and Butler was elected to that chamber in 1882. He failed to reclaim the governor's seat when he ran as a third party in 1888, however, and died in 1891. His name lives on in Butler County, a county in the eastern part of Nebraska.

Sources: The Political Graveyard, the National Governors Association,, Political Corruption in America by Mark Grossman.

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