Fox Butterfield

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Fox Butterfield
Fox Butterfield
Fox Butterfield
Born (1939-07-08) July 8, 1939 (age 81)
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
OccupationJournalist, author
Alma materHarvard University
GenreJournalism, non-fiction

Fox Butterfield (born 8 July 1939)[1] is an American journalist who spent much of his 30-year career[2] reporting for The New York Times.

Butterfield served as Times bureau chief in Saigon, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Boston and as a correspondent in Washington and New York City. During that time, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize as a member of The New York Times team that published the Pentagon Papers, the Pentagon's secret history of the Vietnam War, in 1971 and won a 1983 National Book Award for Nonfiction for China: Alive in the Bitter Sea, an account of his experience as the first Times reporter allowed in China after the revolution. [3][a] He also wrote All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence (1995)[4] about the child criminal Willie Bosket.

In 1990, Butterfield wrote an article on the first African-American to be elected president of the Harvard Law Review, future president of the United States Barack Obama.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Butterfield was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania,[6] the son of Lyman Henry Butterfield, an historian and a director of the Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia.[7] The Canadian industrialist Cyrus S. Eaton was one of his grandfathers. His father named him "Fox" after the English Parliamentary leader, Charles James Fox, who sided with the colonists. [8]

Butterfield graduated from the Lawrenceville School in 1957.[9] He received a bachelor's degree summa cum laude and master's degree from Harvard University. In 1979 he was granted an honorary doctorate from the University of Puget Sound.

In 1988, Butterfield married Elizabeth Mehren, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times.[7] He has two children, Ethan and Sarah, from a previous marriage. He and Mehren had a daughter, Emily (26 Mar 1988-17 May 1988), and a son, Sam (1990–2013).[10]

Michael Moriarty played Fox Butterfield in the 1993 television movie Born Too Soon, based on Mehren's book about their daughter Emily, who was born prematurely in the late 1980s and lived only six weeks. Mehren was played by Pamela Reed. The couple live in Hingham, Massachusetts, about which Butterfield has sometimes written in The Times.


"The Butterfield Effect" is a term coined by James Taranto in his online editorial column of The Wall Street Journal called Best of the Web Today, typically bringing up a headline, "Fox Butterfield, Is That You?" later "Fox Butterfield, Call Your Office". Taranto coined the term after reading Butterfield's articles discussing the "paradox" of crime rates falling while the prison population grew due to tougher sentencing guidelines. Butterfield quoted F.B.I. statistics that from 1994 to 2003 there was a 16 percent drop in arrests for violent crime, including a 36 percent decrease in arrests for murder and a 25 percent decrease in arrests for robbery, but the tough new sentencing laws led to a growth in inmates being sent to prison.[11] Taranto and a Jewish World Review columnist felt that Butterfield should have considered that the tougher sentencing guidelines might have reduced crime by causing more criminals to be in jail.[12][13]


External video
video icon Booknotes interview with Butterfield on All God's Children, March 31, 1996, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Butterfield on In My Father's House, November 7, 2018, C-SPAN
  • China: Alive in the Bitter Sea (1982)
  • All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence (1995)
  • In My Father's House: A New View of How Crime Runs in the Family, Knopf (2018)


  1. ^ This was the award for hardcover "General Nonfiction".
    From 1980 to 1983 in National Book Awards history there were several nonfiction subcategories including General Nonfiction, with dual hardcover and paperback awards in most categories.


  1. ^ Shearer, Benjamin F. (2007). Home Front Heroes: A Biographical Dictionary of Americans During Wartime (Volume I). Greenwood Press. p. 143; ISBN 0-313-33422-6. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  2. ^ The 1999 Bureau of Justice Assistance National Partnership Meeting: Working Together for Peace and Justice in the 21st Century.
  3. ^ "National Book Awards – 1983". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
  4. ^ "NewsHour Online: David Gergen interviews author Fox Butterfield". Retrieved 2007-04-23.
  5. ^ "First Black Elected to Head Harvard's Law Review". Fox Butterfield. The New York Times, February 6, 1990.
  6. ^ The Prentice-Hall Reader, Chapter 7 (6th Edition) Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
  7. ^ a b "Elizabeth Mehren and Fox Butterfield, Newspaper Reporters, Marry in Utah." The New York Times, January 31, 1988.
  8. ^ "Author and Journalist Fox Butterfield", Zocalo, November 14, 2018
  9. ^ "NOTABLE ALUMNI". The Lawrenceville School. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  10. ^ "Interview with Elizabeth Mehren, author of Born Too Soon". Retrieved 2007-04-23.
  11. ^ "Punitive Damages; Crime Keeps On Falling, but Prisons Keep On Filling"; "Study Finds 2.6% Increase in U.S. Prison Population";"Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates"
  12. ^ Graham, Michael (December 2, 2004). "The Butterfield Effect". Jewish World Review. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  13. ^ TimesWatch: Criminal Negligence of Cause and Effect

External links[edit]