The life and death of Hale Boggs
On Oct. 16, 1972, an airplane carrying four people, including House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of New Orleans and U.S. Rep. Nick Begich of Alaska, vanished during a flight between Anchorage and Juneau. They were scheduled to attend a fundraiser there for Begich, who was running for Alaska’s only House seat. No sign of the men or their aircraft was ever found. Boggs, 58, was declared dead on Jan. 3, 1973.
In his 30 years representing Louisiana in Congress, Boggs championed any number of pieces of legislation with long-lasting impact on Louisiana. Perhaps none other more illustrated his congressional power and sense of political wizardry — or means as much to today’s New Orleans — than the key role he played in helping the city land its own NFL franchise, awarded in exchange for Boggs’ deft behind-the-scenes help in earning the NFL an antitrust exemption from Congress in the league’s 1967 merger with the AFL.
- When he took office in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1941, Boggs was just 26 years old and the youngest member of Congress. He was re-elected 13 times — including once after his disappearance but before he was declared dead.
- Former President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, were among the mourners at a Mass for Boggs in St. Louis Cathedral on Jan. 4, 1973. The Johnsons had been close friends of the Boggs family. The service, which Pat Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew also attended, was to be one of Lyndon Johnson’s last public appearances; he died 20 days later at his Texas ranch.
- Also aboard the ill-fated twin-engine Cessna 310 carrying Boggs and Begich were Begich’s aide, Russell Brown, and the pilot, Don Jonz.
- A federal office building in downtown New Orleans is named for Boggs, as is a bridge over the Mississippi River linking Luling and Destrehan. A visitor center at Portage Glacier, which is part of Alaska’s Chugach National Forest, is named for Begich and Boggs.
- Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force planes searched for the men and their airplane for 39 days but found nothing. The search was abandoned on Nov. 24. As a result of the accident, Congress passed a law requiring Emergency Locator Transmitters in all civilian aircraft.
- Boggs had served as a member of the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy
- Boggs was in the first class of 13 politicians inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield in 1993.
A love of politics runs deep in the Boggs bloodline, helping to rank their name among Louisiana’s most recognizable political names of the 20th century — and continuing into the 21st. After his death, Boggs’ wife, Lindy Boggs, was elected to his fill his House seat, which she held until she opted not to seek re-election in 1991. She later served as the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican under President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001. The Boggses’ youngest child, Cokie Boggs Roberts, is an author and political commentator who, with her husband, Steve Roberts, writes a nationally syndicated political column. Cokie Roberts also reports for National Public Radio and serves as a political analyst for ABC News. Altogether, the Boggs family has played a part in national politics for 76 years — and counting.