Donald G. Sanders
1930 – 1999
Attorney, U.S. Marine, FBI Agent, Counsel to the U.S. House Internal Security & Watergate Committees, Boone County Commissioner
Donald Sanders was born on April 26, 1930 in St. Louis. He attended the University of Missouri Columbia and Washington University in St. Louis before attending and graduating from law school at MU I n1954.
After law school, Donald served in the Marines, becoming a commissioned officer before returning to Columbia in 1956 to become City Attorney and then a Boone County Assistant Prosecutor. In 1959, he would join the FBI and was on the team of agents in 1961 who would solve the burning of the Freedom Riders Bus by the Klu Klux Klan in that city. In 1969 he was named the Chief Counsel on the U.S. House Internal Security Committee. In 1973 Sanders became the Deputy Minority Counsel investigating the Watergate break-in.
In the course of the Watergate investigation, and on July 13, 1973, Sanders would ask Presidential aide Alexander Butterfield if there was a recording device in the Oval Office. Sanders, and then later the entire nation, would receive an answer that would change U.S. history and American government forever. However, the modest, tall, life-long Republican and lawyer allowed his supervising colleague to ask the question of Butterfield three days later in front of television cameras. What would follow would be a year-long battle to gain access to the tapes, which were finally handed over on August 5, 1974, and clearly showed that Nixon had called for the cover-up of the Watergate burglary. Nixon resigned three days later.
After Watergate, Sanders returned to Columbia to open a private law practice. He successfully ran for Boone County Commissioner from the Southern District in 1989 but chose to serve only one, two-year term. In 1990 he went back to MU earn a master’s degree in History and in 1994 and 1995 he served as President of the Boone County Historical Society. He also worked to persuade the County to accept his family’s gift of a half-mile, and longest intact portion of the Boonslick Trail in Boone County during this period.
Donald Sanders passed in 1999 after a battle with cancer, but he left behind a family who adored him, a community who admired and respected him, and a nation who will always remember him as a man of integrity.