Former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz died in his sleep this past weekend in Washington D.C. He was 98. Butz was also a past dean of Purdue University's College of Agriculture.

"He was a tireless advocate for agriculture, and his efforts helped bring Purdue Agriculture into international prominence," Randy Woodson, dean of Agriculture at Purdue said in a statement on the university's web site.

Butz served as Secretary of Agriculture from 1971 to 1976 under presidents Nixon and Ford during a period of high food prices and was known for his instruction to farmers to "plant from fence row to fence row," touching off controversy among environmentalists.

He was forced to resign in 1976 after telling a racist joke to a group that included then reporter John Dean who published it in Rolling Stone magazine.

Butz later became a lecturer and consultant. In 1999 he donated $1 million to Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics.