Born in Long Beach in Harrison County on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Boggs was educated at Tulane University where he received a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1934 and a law degree in 1937. He first practiced law in New Orleans but soon became a leader in the movement to break the power of the political machine of U.S. Senator Huey Pierce Long, Jr., who was assassinated in 1935. Long had previously broken the power of 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.
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 Alaska, 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 Anchorage to Juneau. Also on board were Begich’s aide, Russell Brown, and the pilot, Don Jonz; the four were heading to a campaign fundraiser for Begich. (Boggs and Begich would both be re-elected posthumously.)
Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force planes searched for the party. On November 24, 1972, the search was abandoned after 39 days. 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 in all US civil aircraft.
After 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’s death have been the subject of much speculation, suspicion, and numerous conspiracy theories. The 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 1979 novel The Matarese Circle, author Robert Ludlum portrayed Boggs as having been killed to stop his investigation of the Kennedy assassination.
John Barbour Productions, written, directed and produced by John Barbour.