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Hale Boggs

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Title: Hale Boggs  
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Subject: Tip O'Neill, Harry Lee (sheriff), Speedy Long, Tom Foley, 93rd United States Congress
Collection: 1914 Births, 1972 Deaths, 20Th-Century Lawyers, Accidental Deaths in Alaska, American Military Personnel of World War II, American Roman Catholics, Democratic Party Members of the United States House of Representatives, Lawyers from New Orleans, Louisiana, Louisiana Democrats, Louisiana Gubernatorial Candidates, Louisiana Lawyers, Majority Leaders of the United States House of Representatives, Members of the United States House of Representatives from Louisiana, Members of the Warren Commission, Missing Air Passengers, Missing People, People Associated with the Watergate Scandal, People Declared Dead in Absentia, People from Long Beach, Mississippi, People from New Orleans, Louisiana, Politicians Elected Posthumously, Politicians from New Orleans, Louisiana, Tulane University Alumni, Tulane University Law School Alumni, United States Navy Officers, Victims of Aviation Accidents or Incidents in the United States
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Hale Boggs

Hale Boggs
House Majority Leader
In office
January 3, 1971 – January 3, 1973[1]
Deputy Tip O'Neill
Preceded by Carl Albert
Succeeded by Tip O'Neill
House Majority Whip
In office
January 10, 1962 – January 3, 1971
Leader Carl Albert
Preceded by Carl Albert
Succeeded by Tip O'Neill
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by Paul H. Maloney
Succeeded by Lindy Boggs
In office
January 3, 1941 – January 3, 1943
Preceded by Paul H. Maloney
Succeeded by Paul H. Maloney
Personal details
Born Thomas Hale Boggs
February 15, 1914
Long Beach, Mississippi
Died presumably October 16, 1972(1972-10-16) (aged 58)
Alaska, United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lindy Boggs
Relations Steven V. Roberts (son-in-law)
Rebecca Roberts (granddaughter)
six (great-grandchildren)
Daniel J. Hartman (grandson-in-law)
Paul Sigmund (son-in-law)
Lee Roberts (grandson)
Paul Sigmund, Jr. (grandson)
David Sigmund (grandson)
Stephen Sigmund (grandson)
DeLesseps Story Morrison (second cousin-in-law)
Children Cokie Roberts
Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr.
Barbara Boggs Sigmund
Alma mater Tulane University
Profession Lawyer, politician
Religion Roman Catholic[2]

Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr. (born February 15, 1914; presumed to have died on October 16, 1972 but not declared dead until January 3, 1973) was an American Democratic politician and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the House majority leader and a member of the Warren Commission.

In 1972, while he was still Majority Leader, the twin engine airplane in which Boggs was traveling disappeared over a remote section of Alaska. The airplane presumably crashed and was never found. Congressman Nick Begich, of Alaska, was also presumed killed in the same accident.


  • Early start in politics 1
  • Political career 2
    • Gubernatorial bid 2.1
    • Later congressional elections 2.2
  • Disappearance in Alaska 3
    • Disappearance and search 3.1
    • Speculation, suspicions, and theories 3.2
  • Family 4
  • Tributes 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early start in politics

Born in Long Beach in Harrison County on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Boggs was educated at Tulane University where he received a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1934 and a law degree in 1937. He first practiced law in New Orleans but soon became a leader in the movement to break the power of the political machine of U.S. Senator Huey Pierce Long, Jr., who was assassinated in 1935. Long had previously broken the power of New Orleans politicians in 1929.

A Democrat, Boggs was elected to the U.S. House for the Second District and served from 1941 to 1943. At the time he was elected he was, at twenty-six, the youngest member of Congress. After an unsuccessful re-election bid in 1942, Boggs joined the United States Navy as an ensign. He served the remainder of World War II.

Political career

Gubernatorial bid

After the war, Boggs began his political comeback. He was again elected to Congress in 1946 and was then re-elected thirteen times, once just after he disappeared, but before he was presumed dead. In 1951, Boggs launched an ill-fated campaign for governor of Louisiana. Leading in the polls early in the campaign, he was soon put on the defensive when another candidate, Lucille May Grace — at the urging of long-time Louisiana political boss Leander Perez — questioned Boggs' membership in the American Student Union in the 1930s. By 1951, the ASU was thought to be a Communist-front group. Boggs avoided the question and attacked both Grace and Perez for conducting a smear campaign against him. In his book, The Big Lie, author Garry Boulard suggests strongly that Boggs was a member of the ASU, but tried to cover up that fact in the different political climate of the early 1950s. Boggs ultimately placed third in the balloting for governor in early 1952. The Boggs candidate for lieutenant governor, C.E. "Cap" Barham of Ruston, prevailed in a runoff against future Governor John McKeithen. And the Boggs choice for register of state lands, Ellen Bryan Moore of Baton Rouge, won the office vacated by Lucille May Grace. Moore defeated Mary Evelyn Dickerson, future state treasurer in the second McKeithen administration. Two other Boggs candidates were defeated, including State Senator Chester J. Coco of Marksville for attorney general, who lost to Fred S. LeBlanc, and Douglas Fowler of Coushatta, defeated by Allison Kolb of Baton Rouge.[3]

Boggs won the gubernatorial endorsement of the Shreveport Times, which hailed the representative for having stopped the Truman administration from "altering oil-depletion allowances in federal taxation, thus blocking ... efforts to tie a millstone around the neck of the petroleum industry of Louisiana."[4]The Times, in a dig at Miss Grace, also cited Boggs' fight in Congress as early as 1941 against communism and subversion in government.[4] Other newspapers supporting Boggs were the since defunct Monroe Morning World and the functioning Monroe News-Star.[5]

U.S. Senator Russell B. Long endorsed Boggs, though many in the Long faction had preferred Judge Carlos Spaht of Baton Rouge, who ultimately lost the runoff election to another judge, Robert F. Kennon of Minden, whom Russell Long had narrowly defeated in the special Senate election in 1948.[6]

The New Orleans Times-Picayune did not endorse Boggs for governor but instead the fourth-place primary candidate, James M. McLemore, a wealthy cattleman and auction barn owner from Alexandria.[7]Lionel Ott, a member of the New Orleans City Council, was the McLemore choice for lieutenant governor; Kennon's preference for lieutenant governor was Elmer David Conner (1905-1965) of Jennings, who in 1952 became the new administration's director of commerce and industry. Both Ott and Conner were eliminated in the primary.

The Boggs Act of 1952, sponsored by Hale Boggs, set mandatory sentences for drug-related offenses. A first-offense conviction for marijuana possession carried a minimum sentence of 2–10 years with a fine of up to $20,000.[8]

Later congressional elections

In 1960, the Republican Elliot Ross Buckley, a cousin of William F. Buckley Jr., challenged Boggs but drew only 22,818 votes (22 percent) to the incumbent's 81,034 ballots (78 percent). The Kennedy-Johnson ticket easily won in Louisiana that year.

In 1962, 1964, and 1968, American Independent Party ticket. Treen said that Wallace supporters “became very cool to my candidacy. We couldn’t really believe they would support Boggs, but several Democratic organizations did come out for Wallace and Boggs, and he received just enough Wallace votes to give him the election.” Republican officials seemed convinced that fraudulent votes in some Orleans Parish precincts benefited Boggs and that Treen may have actually won the election . There were rumors of election officials who cast votes for people who did not show up at the polls and signed for them in the precinct registers.

President Lyndon B. Johnson with House Majority Whip Boggs

During his tenure in Congress, Boggs was an influential player in the government. After Brown v. Board of Education he signed the Southern Manifesto condemning desegregation in the 1950s and opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yet unlike most southern congressmen of his era, he supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Open Housing Act of 1968. He was instrumental in passage of the interstate highway program in 1956.

Boggs was a member of the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy from 1963 to 1964. In a 1966 appearance on Face the Nation, Boggs defended the Commission's findings and stated that he did not doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy.[9][10] He said that all the evidence indicated that Kennedy was shot from behind and that the argument that one bullet hit both Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally was "very persuasive".[10] Boggs took issue with the assertions of Warren Commission critics and stated that it was "human nature" that "many people would prefer to believe there was a conspiracy".[9][10]

He served as Majority Whip from 1962 to 1971 and as majority leader from January 1971 until his disappearance. As the whip, he ushered much of President Johnson's Great Society legislation through Congress.

On August 22, 1968, while Secretary of State Dean Rusk was testifying in a hearing concerning the Vietnam War, Rep. Boggs interrupted the session to announce the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the troops of the Soviet Union, after hearing of a recent Radio Prague broadcast telling the Czech and Slovak people not to take any action against the occupying forces. This caused Secretary Rusk, who was previously unaware of the situation, to immediately excuse himself mid-testimony in order to attend to the issue of the invasion. (edited for clarity as suggested with the source being an audio recording of the actual hearing from [11]) (Source: Walter Cronkite: "The Way it Was: The 1960s")

In April 1971 he made a speech on the floor of the House in which he strongly attacked FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and the whole of the FBI. This led to a conversation on April 6, 1971, between then-President Richard M. Nixon and the Republican minority leader, Gerald R. Ford, Jr., in which Nixon said that he could no longer take counsel from Boggs as a senior member of Congress. In the recording of this call, Nixon is heard to ask Ford to arrange for the House delegation to include an alternative to Boggs. Ford speculates that Boggs is on pills as well as alcohol.

Disappearance in Alaska

Disappearance and search

As Majority Leader, Boggs often campaigned for others. On October 16, 1972, he was aboard a twin engine Cessna 310 with Representative Nick Begich of Alaska, who was facing a possible tight race in the November 1972 general election against the Republican candidate, Don Young, when it disappeared during a flight from Anchorage to Juneau. Also on board were Begich’s aide Russell Brown and the pilot, Don Jonz;[12] the four were heading to a campaign fundraiser for Begich. (Boggs and Begich would both be re-elected posthumously.)

Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force planes searched for the party. On November 24, 1972, the search was abandoned after 39 days. Neither the wreckage of the plane nor the pilot's and passengers' remains were ever found. The accident prompted Congress to pass a law mandating Emergency Locator Transmitters in all U.S. civil aircraft.

After Boggs and Begich were re-elected that November, House Resolution 1 of January 3, 1973, officially recognized Boggs's presumed death and opened the way for a special election.

Speculation, suspicions, and theories

The events surrounding Boggs's death have been the subject of much speculation, suspicion, and numerous conspiracy theories. These theories often center on his membership on the Warren Commission. Boggs dissented from the Warren Commission's majority who supported the single bullet theory. Regarding the single-bullet theory, Boggs commented, "I had strong doubts about it."[13] In the 1979 novel The Matarese Circle, author Robert Ludlum portrayed Boggs as having been killed to stop his investigation of the Kennedy assassination.


In 1973, Boggs’s wife since 1938, Lindy Boggs, was elected as a Democrat to the 93rd Congress, by special election, to the second district seat left vacant by her husband's death.[14] She was reelected to the eight succeeding Congresses (March 20, 1973 – January 3, 1991) where she served until 1991.[15][16] In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed Lindy Boggs U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. She served until 2001.[17]

Hale and Lindy Boggs had three children: U.S. TV and public radio journalist Cokie Roberts, born December 27, 1943, and the wife of journalist Steven V. Roberts; Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., a prominent Washington, D.C.,-based attorney and lobbyist; and Barbara Boggs Sigmund, who served as mayor of Princeton, New Jersey. In 1982 Mrs. Sigmund lost a bid for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate to Frank Lautenberg.


The Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish, is named in memory of the former congressman. The visitor center at Portage Glacier in Southcentral Alaska (located within Chugach National Forest) is named the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. The Hale Boggs Federal Building, at 500 Poydras Street in New Orleans, is also named after him.

In 1993, Boggs was among thirteen politicians, past and present, inducted into the first class of the new Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.


  1. ^ As Boggs was missing and not officially declared dead until January, he formally retained an office after his disappearance.
  2. ^  
  3. ^ "Boggs '52 ticket listed", Minden Herald, October 19, 1951, p. 1
  4. ^ a b Shreveport Times, editorial, December 2, 1951
  5. ^ Minden Press-Herald, December 7, 1951
  6. ^ "Senator Russell Long to Speak Here Dec. 15 at 9:30", Minden Press, December 14, 1951, p. 1
  7. ^ Minden Press, January 11, 1952, p. 13
  8. ^ "Marijuana timeline".  
  9. ^ a b "Another Member of The Warren Commission Defends Findings". Lodi News-Sentinel (Lodi, California). UPI. November 28, 1966. p. 8. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c "Boggs Says Assassination Data Complete". Sarasota Journal (Sarasota, Florida). AP. November 28, 1966. p. 28. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  11. ^ "U.S. Receives News of Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia — Audio". Retrieved 7 September 2014. 
  12. ^ "Hale Boggs — Missing in Alaska". Famous Missing Aircraft. Check-Six. Retrieved 2007-04-15. 
  13. ^ Epstein, Edward J. Inquest, (New York: Viking Press, 1966), p. 148.
  14. ^ Boggs, Lindy, with Katherine Hatch. Washington Through a Purple Veil: Memoirs of a Southern Woman. New York: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1994.
  15. ^ Ferrell, Thomas H., and Judith Haydel. “Hale and Lindy Boggs: Louisiana’s National Democrats.” Louisiana History 35 (Fall 1994): 389-402.
  16. ^ Boggs, Lindy, with Katherine Hatch. Washington Through a Purple Veil: Memoirs of a Southern Woman. New York: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1994.
  17. ^ Lewis, Michael. Having Her Say at The See. (2000, June 4). New York Times, p. 662.


  • Boulard, Garry, "The Big Lie--Hale Boggs, Lucille May Grace and Leander Perez in 1951-52" (2001)
  • Maney, Patrick J. "Hale Boggs: The Southerner as National Democrat" in Raymond W Smock and Susan W Hammond, eds. Masters of the House: Congressional Leadership Over Two Centuries (1998) pp 33–62.
  • Strahan, Randall. "Thomas Brackett Reed and the Rise of Party Government" in Raymond W Smock and Susan W Hammond, eds. Masters of the House: Congressional Leadership Over Two Centuries (1998) pp 223–259.
  • "Boggs, Thomas Hale, Sr., (1914–1972)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2007-04-15. 

External links

  • Hale Boggs at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Transcript, Hale Boggs Oral History Interview, 3/13/69, by T. H. Baker, Internet Copy, LBJ Library. Accessed April 3, 2005.
  • "Hale Boggs — Freedom of Information Privacy Act page". Federal Bureau of Investigation. 
  • Hale Boggs Telex — Debunked
  • Oral History Interviews with Hale Boggs, from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Paul H. Maloney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Paul H. Maloney
Preceded by
Paul H. Maloney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Lindy Boggs
Party political offices
Preceded by
Carl Albert
House Majority Whip
Succeeded by
Tip O'Neill
House Majority Leader
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