Fall 2004 Table of Contents.
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 New & Now.


Battlefield Bacteria

The Last Word

Historic Disclosure

Genetically Altered

School for Scientists

Gravity Unbound

Papers and Profits


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Historic Disclosure

"President Nixon has been routinely taping all his conversations and meetings in the Oval Office and cabinet room of the White House, in his Executive Office Building office and on four of his personal telephones, former White House aide Alexander P. Butterfield told the Senate select Watergate committee yesterday."

This 49-word bombshell, splashed across the front page of the Washington Post on July 14, 1973, signaled the beginning of the end of Richard Nixon's presidency. The decline and fall of America's 37th chief executive, of course, has been well documented. Not so the story of the man who elicited Butterfield's historic disclosure.

Donald G. Sanders, a former FBI agent and 1954 graduate of MU's School of Law, served as Deputy Minority Counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities during Watergate. As minority counsel, it often fell to Sanders to directly question witnesses called to give testimony before the committee. And so it was that Sanders asked Butterfield the fateful question: "Is there any kind of recording system in the White House?"

Documents detailing that July day, along with thousands of other records from the period, are now available to scholars and the public in a newly catalogued collection at the University Archives of the MU Libraries. Included are nearly 200,000 papers, photographs and various other documents belonging to Sanders. Of particular interest is a small pocket planner that contains Sanders' matter-of-fact, handwritten notation for the Friday, July 13 hearing. "PM meeting with Alex Butterfield," it reads. "Disclosure of W.H. tapes."

Other items include correspondence, memoranda, meeting minutes, reports and publications from Sanders' years of public service. He worked with the FBI, the House Committee on Internal Security, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Defense and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. Late in his career, Sanders served on the Boone County Commission. As a retiree, he returned to MU to earn a master's degree in history.

Michael Holland, head of special collections, archives and rare books at Ellis Library, called the collection a "treasure trove of information" that provides insights into how federal investigators conducted their work. "The information gives us an in-depth look at legal strategies that lead to federal prosecutions and how to go from one lead to another," Holland says. "You see how Sanders was thinking."

Dolores Mead, Sanders' widow, donated the artifacts and documents to MU in 2004. An online catalog of the collection is located on the Web site of the MU Archives here.

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Published by the Office of Research.

©2007 Curators of the University of Missouri. Click here to contact the editor.