Politics was central to Lindy Boggs’s life long before she won a special election in 1973 to succeed her husband, Thomas Hale Boggs Sr., better known as Hale Boggs. Her family, the Claibornes, traced its roots to colonial Jamestown and was one of the country’s early political dynasties.
She arrived in Washington in 1941, the 24-year-old wife of the youngest freshman in the House of Representatives; she quickly delved into the politics and strategies of the Capitol, acting as a Democratic hostess, campaign manager and adviser to her husband and scores of other politicians.
Her children followed her into public life. Her son, Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., known as Tommy, is one of the marquee partners of the law firm and lobbyist group Patton Boggs; her younger daughter, Roberts, has worked for National Public Radio and ABC-TV; her elder daughter, the late Barbara Boggs Sigmund, was mayor of Princeton, N.J.
With her Southern graciousness, Mrs. Boggs was said to charm, flatter and persuade even the most curmudgeonly of her male counterparts in Congress. As a representative for nine terms, she used those skills to support civil rights — eventually becoming the only white member of Congress elected from a majority-black district — and to promote legislation that helped women and children.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, she helped shape an amendment to the 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act, legislation that made it illegal for creditors to discriminate against applicants based on race and other factors. Mrs. Boggs hand-wrote “sex or marital status” into the text and then passed out new copies of the bill with the phrase included.
She suggested sweetly that the omission “must have been an oversight.” The amendment passed.
“Different politicians have different techniques, but not many could get away with Lindy’s technique,” former congressman Bob Livingston (R-La.), who served with Mrs. Boggs on the House Appropriations Committee, told the New York Times in 2000. “It was ‘Dahlin’ this’ and ‘Sweetie that.’ And she usually walked out with what she came in to get and never mentioned it again.”
She continued working with philanthropic, civic and cultural institutions after she retired from Congress in 1990. She was Catholic, and in 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed her U.S. ambassador to the Holy See at the Vatican, where she served until 2001.
Mrs. Boggs, Clinton joked, was “maybe the only person on Earth who could convince the pope I am worth dealing with.”
Throughout her career, Mrs. Boggs insisted, she truly liked almost everyone she met, including presidents Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy, journalists, lobbyists and campaign workers. She was well liked in return — no common praise in Washington.