Lindy Boggs leaves a legacy of vibrant New Orleans spirit that will continue to resonate in Washington.
By Adoria Doucette
Marie Claiborne was not old enough to enter college. Pierce Butler, Dean of Newcomb-Tulane asked, “Ms. Claiborne, are you 16 years of age?” Her response was, “To be or not to be, that is the question, but to thine own self be true, thou canst not then be false to any man….no I am not 16”. She was accepted, met her husband on campus, and her intelligent savvy became legendary. As a pivotal part of Washington Life for 60 years, she was the patron of many causes always approaching a problem with an attitude of “Well we must do something about that, shouldn’t we?”
After entering Tulane at 15, Ms. Claiborne would soon be known as Lindy Boggs, yet her Claiborne heritage was at the core of her existence and pride in America. Starting off as a page in New York and Philadelphia Congresses during the birth of our nation, William Claiborne became the youngest Congressman in US history. After the Haitian revolution weakened France’s finances and ability to support and defend the Louisiana Territory, Claiborne was appointed by Thomas Jefferson to manage the purchase and transfer of the Louisiana Territory. Claiborne became the first Governor of Louisiana, working to bring together many conflicting constituencies where everyone could find a place they felt they would genuinely belong.
The Washington Life of Mrs. Boggs began in 1941 when her husband Hale Boggs was elected to the House of Representatives at 26- the youngest member. The presence of Lindy Boggs in our community was consistent from that time until last week, when she gently closed her eyes in Chevy Chase for the last time. Her many friends and admirers can be comforted knowing thatafter his untimely death 40 years ago she and her beloved Hale are now together .
Beyond the thousands of accolades and accomplishments that she, her husband, and children can be proud of, her most monumental individual contribution to America was the inclusion of four words into crucial legislation that were to reshape the economic activity of our rich nation. As a newly elected Congresswoman, Ms. Boggs hand wrote “sex and marital status” into the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974. This single action paved the way for the complete economic independence of women. At that time, a woman could not obtain any credit, mortgages, loans or businesses without being sponsored by a man. Now, one-third of all small business activity in our nation is conducted by female-owned businesses.
New Orleans has a complicated racial history, but as one directly connected to that history, Ms. Boggs cherished the fact that half of the population at the founding of New Orleans was black; that a black regiment helped secure the new territory; and that the majority of her constituents were black. She believed the fact that diversity embellished the richness of New Orleans and was a great contributor to the essence of America. After being appointed Ambassador to the Vatican by President Clinton, Ms. Boggs spearheaded the United States opening a new Embassy to the Holy See on one of the historic seven hills of Rome. It was from this fabled perch that Ambassador Boggs threw a grand July 4th celebration during our millennial year featuring the great jazz patriarch and fellow New Orleanian Ellis Marsalis. This grand display of an element of African American culture allowed Ms. Boggs to triumphantly showcase to the Vatican, and diplomats around the world, the exceptional qualities of a culture and music that defines the complexity and diversity of America.
Her influence in Rome as ambassador was as great as it had been in Washington. John Paul the Great was the most travelled Pontiff in all of history, making 104 official trips – more than all other Popes combined. Nobody knows exactly how Ambassador Boggs convinced him, but in 1997 Pope John Paul II accepted the US Medal of Freedom. Amongst all his travels, this was the only national award from any country that he would ever accept.
On orders of Governor Bobby Jindal, flags are now flying at half-staff in Louisiana, and on Thursday, August 1, Marie Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs will experience her last mass in the historic St. Louis Cathedral. The funeral is to take place in the heart of New Orleans, steps from the historic Cabildo building where 210 years ago her Claiborne namesake signed the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the United States.
Power Source salutes the life of Lindy Boggs, much of which revolved around Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, Louisiana. Beyond her subtle influence as a leading lady of society, her contribution to the financial empowerment of women in our country is of immeasurable importance and ensures her name will be associated to the patriotic accomplishments of her family.
“If you are a woman and own a small business or have a credit card, you have Lindy Boggs to thank.” – Robert Mann, LSU School of Mass Communication
Power Source is an insider’s view of power networks and activities that contribute to the continued dominance of our nation’s ideals, institutions and individuals. Ms. Doucette has privately orchestrated projects for the world’s most influential individuals, celebrated personalities, and corporations. Based in Washington DC, Ms. Doucette is a proud native of New Orleans, Louisiana. She can be reached at: email@example.com