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Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr. (February 15, 1914– Undetermined; presumably October 16, 1972, not declared dead until January 3, 1973) was an Americanmarker Democratic politician and a member of the United States House of Representatives for Louisianamarker. 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 Alaskamarker disappeared. The airplane presumably crashed and was never found. Congressman Nick Begich was also presumed killed in the same accident.

Early start in politics

Born in Long Beach, Mississippimarker, Boggs was educated at Tulane Universitymarker where he received a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1934 and a law degree in 1937. He first practiced law in New Orleansmarker, but soon became a leader in the movement to break the power of the Long Machine, the political machine of late U.S. Senator Huey Long, who died in 1935. Long had previously broken the power of local 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

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 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 his 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. Even so, Boggs placed third in the balloting for governor in early 1952, the last time he was involved in state politics.

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).

David C. Treen, a Metairiemarker lawyer who became the first Louisiana Republican governor in 1980, challenged Boggs in 1962, 1964, and 1968. Treen built on Buckley's efforts in the first contest, and Goldwater momentum in Louisiana helped in the second race. It was in the 1968 election, however, that Treen fared the best: 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 Alabamamarker Governor George C. Wallace, Jr., 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 Mindenmarker, whom Boggs supported in the runoff. Kennon "adopted" Boggs's intraparty choice for lieutenant governor, C. E. "Cap" Barham of Rustonmarker 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 Parishmarker.

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 1964 Civil Rights Act. 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 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.

In April 1971 he made a speech on the floor of the House, strongly attacking FBImarker Director J Edgar Hoover, and the whole of the FBI. This led to a conversation between then President Richard Nixon and the Republican Minority Leader Gerald Ford in which Nixon said 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.

Boggs's influence also led to charges of corruption. Controversy surrounded him, when a contractor who remodeled his home in Bethesdamarker, Marylandmarker, at a reduced cost sought his help for obtaining a $5 million extra payment for building a garage adjacent to the United States Capitolmarker building.

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 Alaskamarker, 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 Anchoragemarker to Juneaumarker. The only others on board were Begich's aide, Russell Brown, and the pilot, Don Jonz; the four were heading to a campaign fundraiser for Begich. (Begich won the 1972 election posthumously with 56 percent to Young's 44 percent, though Young would win the special election to replace Begich and won every election through and including 2008.)

Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force planes searched for the party. On November 24, 1972, after 39 days, the search was abandoned. 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 (ELT's) 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.

Speculation, suspicions, and theories

The events surrounding Boggs' 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." In the Robert Ludlum novel, The Matarese Circle, Boggs was killed to stop his investigation of the Kennedy assassination.


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

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 the late Barbara Boggs Sigmund, who served as mayor of Princeton, New Jerseymarker. In 1982, Mrs. Sigmund lost a bid for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate to Frank Lautenberg.


The Hale Boggs Memorial Bridgemarker, which spans the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parishmarker, is named in memory of the former congressman.The Portage Glacier visitor center, located at Portage Glacier in South Central Alaska 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 Winnfieldmarker.


  1. []
  2. Epstein, Edward J. Inquest, (New York: Viking Press, 1966), p. 148.


  • 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.

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