- Democratic U.S. congressman from North Carolina
- Member of the Congressional Black Caucus
- Views America as a nation awash in racism
See also: Democratic Party Congressional Black Caucus
George Kenneth (“G.K.”) Butterfield was born on April 27, 1947 in Wilson, North Carolina. He earned a BA in sociology and political science at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in 1971, and a JD at the NCCU School of Law in 1974. He was strongly influenced by one of his law professors, Harold Washington Jr., who later became the mayor of Chicago.
After completing his education, Butterfield worked as an attorney with the law firm of Fitch, Butterfield and Wynn from 1975-88. He then served as a judge in North Carolina Superior Court from 1988-2004. In a July 2004 special election, he won a seat representing North Carolina's 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives—replacing Rep. Frank Ballance, who had resigned in June. Butterfield was again victorious in the regularly scheduled general election of November 2004 and has been reelected every two years since then. He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
When the House of Representatives voted by a 345-75 margin to defund the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN in September 2009, Butterfield was one of the 75—all Democrats—who voted to continue funding the group. For a list of other legislators who voted as Butterfield did, click here.
In November 2014, Butterfield said that a crime “probably was committed” three months earlier by the white police officer who had shot and killed a violent black criminal named Michael Brown in a Ferguson, Missouri altercation that subsequently set off weeks of protests and rioting. Moreover, the congressman warned that if the grand jurors who were examining the evidence pertaining to that case were to “turn their backs on justice” by not indicting the officer, “there will be pushback from those who are concerned about it—and I’m one of those who’s concerned about it.” “And I would hope,” he added, “that law enforcement would not inflame citizens who want to express their First Amendment rights” by protesting.
The following month, Butterfield and Rep. John Lewis led a number of fellow CBC members in urging President Barack Obama to invite the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner—another black man who had died in highly publicized confrontation with a white police officer in the summer of 2014—to his upcoming State of the Union address in January 2015. For details of both the Brown and Garner incidents, click here.
In December 2014, Butterfield objected to a Republican proposal to slightly cut congressional funding for the bloated, fraud-ridden Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps. By Butterfield's reckoning, such an “immoral” and “irresponsible” course of action would “hurt real people and literally take food off [the] table” of “deserving American citizens.” Existing budget shortfalls, he added, were not the result of runaway spending on social-welfare programs like SNAP, but rather, of “reckless policies that have benefited the rich.”
In January 2015, Butterfield and several fellow CBC members marked the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by visiting Ferguson, Missouri and vowing to make criminal-justice reform the “centerpiece” of their congressional agenda. Lamenting that black America “continues to be [the] victim of decades of discrimination and neglect by those in power,” Butterfield stated that it was time for society to “demand change in the way African Americans are treated in this country.” Moreover, he vowed that he and his fellow congressmen would “use our positions to expose racism when and where it is found,” and “to introduce legislation to address the need for systemic change in the criminal-justice system—changes not only regarding the means by which law enforcement officers carry out their duties, but the misconduct of prosecutors and grand juries.”
In January 2015 as well, Butterfield objected strenuously when Republican House Speaker John Boehner—without first asking President Obama for his approval—invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress on March 3rd about the gravity of the growing Iranian nuclear threat and his “profound disagreement” with the deal that the Obama Administration was pursuing with Iran. Butterfield was one of numerous CBC members who announced that because of Netanyahu's act of “disrespect” against Obama, they would be boycotting the speech.
In February 2015, Butterfield—lamenting that “black America is in a state of [financial] emergency right now”—said that Democrats should focus less on “middle class” issues, and more on “lift[ing]” blacks out of “persistent poverty” by means of a more expansive “safety net.”
That same month, Butterfield praised Loretta Lynch—whom President Obama had recently nominated for the post of Attorney General—as someone who could be depended upon to “not only … enforc[e] the laws of the land, but also to [address] issues that are unique to the African-American community, such as police misconduct and the need to reform the criminal-justice system.” Meanwhile, the congressman expressed outrage over the fact that Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had been postponing a confirmation vote on Lynch because of disagreements with Democrats over a human-trafficking bill that the Democrats were blocking. By Butterfield's telling, “race certainly can be considered a major factor in the delay.” As evidence, he cited the fact that Ash Carter, a white man whom Obama had nominated for secretary of defense, “was confirmed in literally just a matter of hours.” In a similar vein, Butterfield rejected Republican Senator Rand Paul's contention that he (Paul) opposed Lynch’s confirmation because of her support for civil asset forfeiture. That was “nothing but an excuse to keep an African-American legal scholar from holding this high position,” said Butterfield.
Viewing the United States as a nation awash in racism, Butterfield contends that “suppressive and discriminatory” Voter ID laws are designed not to ensure the integrity of elections, but rather to “disenfranchise” many “African American voters” by saddling them with “unnecessary burdens … under the guise of combatting voter fraud.”
For an overview of Butterfield's voting record on a range of issues during his years in Congress, click here, here, and here.
For additional information on Butterfield, click here.