Hale Boggs

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Hale Boggs
Hale Boggs

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 2nd district
In office
1941 - 1943 (1st)
1947 - 1972 (2nd)
Preceded by Paul H. Maloney (1st)
Paul H. Maloney (2nd)
Succeeded by Paul H. Maloney (1st)
Lindy Boggs (2nd)

Born February 15, 1914
Long Beach, Mississippi
Died presumably October 16, 1972
Political party Democratic
Spouse Lindy Boggs
Profession lawyer, politician

Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr., (February 15, 1914 – Undetermined; presumably October 16, 1972) was an American Democratic politician and a member of the United States House of Representatives for Louisiana. He was the House Majority Leader.

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


[edit] Early start in politics

Born in Long Beach, Mississippi, 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 Huey Long's political power in the area. 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.

[edit] Political career

After the war, Boggs began his political comeback. He was again elected to Congress in 1946 and was then re-elected 13 times, once just after he disappeared, but before he was presumed dead. In his closest contest -- 1968, Boggs faced his third challenge from Republican David C. Treen, who went on to win the Louisiana governorship in 1979. Treen received 77,633 votes (48.8 percent) to Boggs's 81,537 ballots (51.2 percent). Treen attributed Boggs's victory to the supporters of former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, who ran for president on the 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.

Boggs unsuccessfully sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1951-1952. He lost out to a field of opponents, including the eventual winner, Judge Robert F. Kennon of Minden, whom Boggs supported in the runoff. Kennon "adopted" Boggs's intraparty choice for lieutenant governor, C. E. "Cap" Barham of Ruston in Lincoln Parish. In that race, one of the candidates, "Miss" Lucille May Grace, filed suit in an unsuccessful attempt to remove Boggs from the ballot on the grounds that he was either a "communist" or had been a "communist sympathizer" in his earlier years. As it turned out, Miss Grace's maneuver was arranged by Boggs's long-term political rival, Judge Leander H. Perez, the political "boss" of Plaquemines Parish.

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 desegregatio in the 1950s and opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Yet unlike most Southern Congressmen of his era, he supported the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Open Housing Act. He was instrumental in passage of the interstate highway program in 1956, and was a member of the Warren Commission in 1963-1964.

He served as Majority Whip from 1961 to 1970 and as majority leader (from January 1971). As majority whip, he ushered much of President Johnson's Great Society legislation through Congress. Boggs is one of numerous public officials known to have drinking problems during the time. [1]

His influence also led to charges of corruption. Controversy surrounded him, when a contractor who remodeled his home in Bethesda, Maryland at a reduced cost sought his help for obtaining a $5 million extra payment for building a garage adjacent to the United States Capitol building.

[edit] Disappearance in Alaska

[edit] Disappearance and 39 day search

As Majority Leader, Boggs campaigned often for others. In October, 1972, he was aboard a twin engine Cessna 310 with Representative Nick Begich when it disappeared during a flight from Anchorage to Juneau, Alaska. Begich's aide and the pilot were the only others on board. The four were heading for a campaign fundraiser for Begich, who was facing a possible tight race in the November 1972 general election against the Republican candidate Don Young (Begich won the 1972 election posthumously with 56% to Young's 44%).

In the largest search ever mounted by the U.S. military, Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force planes searched for the party. The search was abandoned after 39 days on November 24 1972. The mens' remains were never found. The accident prompted Congress to pass a law mandating emergency locator transmitters (now called emergency position-indicating rescue beacons) in all U.S. civil aircraft.

Both 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.

[edit] 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 around his involvement with the Warren Commission, but some tie his death to alleged corruption charges or his outspoken opposition to powerful Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover. Some people, including several of Begich's children, have suggested that Richard Nixon had a hand in Boggs's death in order to thwart the Watergate investigation. None of these theories has ever been proven.

Conspiracy in the death would be virtually impossible, however, since it would involve convincing Don Jonz, the pilot, to kill himself along with his two passengers. He deliberately flew into known icing conditions, having written the lead article for Flying Magazine of October 1972, entitled "Ice Without Fear." In the article, Jonz boasted that 99% of the current wisdom regarding flying in icing conditions could be safely disregarded.

[edit] Family

In 1973, Boggs's wife since 1938, Lindy, was elected to the second district seat left vacant by his death, where she served until 1991.

Hale and Lindy Boggs had three children: journalist Cokie Roberts (wife of journalist Steven V. Roberts), Tommy Boggs, a prominent Washington, D.C.-based attorney and lobbyist, and the late 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.

[edit] Quote

"I wish I could stand here as a man who loves his state, born and reared in the South, who has spent every year of his life in Louisiana since he was 5 years old, and say there has not been discrimination. But, unfortunately, it is not so."

[edit] Tributes

The Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish, is named in memory of the former congressman.

[edit] See also

[edit] Reference

  • 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

[edit] External links

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

1941 – 1943
Succeeded by
Paul H. Maloney
Preceded by
Paul H. Maloney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district

1947 – 1972
Succeeded by
Lindy Boggs
Preceded by
Carl Albert
Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Tip O'Neill
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