“I was covering the State of the Union, and I was standing in Statuary Hall, and there was a new shot—a new camera angle that we had never used before—and it was down the center aisle at knee height. And I had this incredible qualm because it all just came rushing back. That was my earliest memory of the chamber, and there it was at the right height for me to see it. But I still have moments in the Capitol where I will turn a corner, and something will just come rushing back. And I’m 63 years old. And there’ll be times when I’ll turn a corner and sort of half expect to see my father. So it’s a very—a place redolent with memories, to put it mildly.”
— Cokie Roberts, August 28, 2007
Growing up in and around the U.S. Capitol shaped Cokie Roberts’ future as a nationally recognized congressional reporter. The daughter of prominent U.S. Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs, who represented a New Orleans-centered district for half a century, Roberts recalled riding the old Senate subway, with its wicker seats; accompanying her father on the House Floor on the Opening Day of Congress in the late 1940s; prodding her father to speak out on the floor in support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and listening to prominent dinner guests such as Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas. In this far-ranging pair of interviews, Roberts also discussed lesser-known aspects of the House, such as the Radio-TV Gallery and the executive committee that oversees journalists’ accreditation, as well as her unique position as a congressional journalist in the 1980s while her mother was a leading Member of the House. Roberts’ recollections explain how the culture of congressional bipartisanship that was forged during World War II developed into today’s sharp partisan distinctions and obligatory emphasis on fundraising and campaigning.
In 2017, the Office of the House Historian conducted an interview with Cokie Roberts for its oral history project: A Century of Women in Congress.
Born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs on December 27, 1943, in New Orleans, Louisiana, “Cokie” Roberts is the youngest of the three children of Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr., and Lindy Boggs. Roberts’ brother, Tommy, invented her nickname when, as a child, he could not pronounce her given name Corinne.
Cokie attended private Catholic schools—the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1964, she graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in political science. She married New York Times correspondent Steven V. Roberts in 1966; they raised two children, Lee and Rebecca. The couple lived in New York, Los Angeles, and Europe for 11 years before returning to Washington, D.C.
Cokie Roberts came of age in the shadow of the Capitol. Her father, Hale Boggs, first won election to a term in the U.S. House in 1940 but lost re-nomination in 1942. After serving in the Naval Reserve during World War II, Boggs was re-elected to the House in 1946. He served from January 1947 until October 1972, when his plane disappeared while he was on a campaign trip to Alaska, and he was presumed dead. During his final decade in the House, Hale Boggs became a powerful member of the leadership, serving as Majority Whip (87th–91st Congresses) and Majority Leader (92nd Congress). Lindy Boggs succeeded her husband in a special election in March 1973, shortly after his seat was declared vacant. A member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, she became an advocate for women’s economic rights, serving until her retirement in January 1991.
Roberts began her radio career as a foreign correspondent for CBS in the 1970s and started covering Capitol Hill for National Public Radio (NPR) in 1978, reporting on the Panama Canal Treaty. Beginning in the early 1980s, she was assigned to Capitol Hill full-time serving as the network’s congressional correspondent for more than a decade. Roberts co-anchored ABC’s “This Week” with Sam Donaldson from 1996 through 2002.
A senior news analyst for NPR and a political commentator for ABC News, Roberts has won three Emmy Awards and was president of the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association from 1981 to 1982. She is the best-selling author of We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters (1998), Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation (2004), and Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation (2008), and in 2000 she and her husband co-authored a book on marriage, From This Day Forward. Cokie Roberts died on September 17, 2019.
Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas and Future President Lyndon Baines Johnson
Description of the relationship between U.S. Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana and Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas and future President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
The Changing Institution
Discussion of the changing nature of the House and Congress.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
Detailed account of Louisiana Representative Hale Boggs' decision to speak on behalf of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
U.S. Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Insight on the political partnership shared by U.S. Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana.
Congresswoman Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Personal description of Louisiana Congresswoman Lindy Boggs’ transition to the public spotlight after her election to Congress in 1973.
Life as a Child of a Member of Congress
Detailed account of the close connection between family life and politics for the Boggs family.
Memories of the Capitol
Recollections and personal memories of the House and the Capitol.