Congressman, Alum is NCCU Commencement Speaker

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Central University alumnus who earlier this month won a fourth term in Congress, will deliver the Winter Commencement address at ceremonies on Dec. 11.

About 500 undergraduate and professional students will receive degrees at the mid-year Commencement. The ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. in NCCU’s McDougald–McLendon Gymnasium.

Butterfield, a Democrat, easily won re-election to his 1st U.S. House District seat this month, bucking a punishing election cycle for his party nationally. On the night of his victory, he told reporters, “The people know me and know I have a genuine concern for the quality of life in the 1st District.”

Butterfield earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and sociology from NCCU in 1972. He earned his law degree from the university in 1974.

Chancellor Charlie Nelms hailed Butterfield’s return to the campus.

“This university was founded by a great man who sought to inspire others to become great,” said Nelms. “Congressman Butterfield is one of many who have fulfilled that vision. I’m pleased that our graduates and the NCCU family will have the chance to hear him speak.”

After obtaining his law degree, Butterfield embarked on a 14-year career in law in his hometown of Wilson, N.C. He won notice for successfully litigating several Eastern North Carolina voting rights cases. In 1988, he was elected to a state Superior Court post, where he remained for 12 years. He also held a seat on the state Supreme Court.

He was elected to Congress in July 2004, to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Frank Ballance. Butterfield has won re-election since then. He was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s candidacy for president, and became an adviser during the 2008 campaign.

A year earlier, he had been appointed to a party leadership post in the House, becoming a chief deputy whip. He is the first Democrat from the state to hold the post. Chief deputy whips help formulate policy for the party and are responsible for ensuring the passage of legislation.

Butterfield serves on the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce and is vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. He also serves on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and the U.S. Helsinki Commission.