Lindy Boggs passed away last week at the age of 97. The mother of ABC News commentator Cokie Roberts, Boggs was a southerner from Louisiana who succeeded her husband, Hale Boggs, in Congress after his plane crashed in Alaska in 1972. Reading about her interesting life brought me back to a magical evening I spent with her in New Orleans about 10 years ago.
I was there for a board meeting and it was my first time in The Big Easy. Lady Boggs — as she was known in her home state — had agreed to meet our group of five women for a private dinner at a signature restaurant in the French Quarter. It was clear she was no stranger to anyone in the establishment. After a delicious meal and interesting conversation about our mutual interest in bettering the lives of women and children, Lady Boggs spontaneously invited us to come back to her home for tea.
As we left the restaurant, French Quarter nightlife was in full swing. We followed Lady Boggs along Bourbon Street, doing our best to stick together on the crowded streets. From behind, I marveled at the scene: This elegant grand dame who oozed grace and culture seemed right at home and as she passed burly nightclub bouncers, strip club security guards, ladies of the night, and street performers. I swear that every one of them either tipped their hats or nodded their heads at her. “Good evening Lady Boggs,” they would say, and then they’d clear the way for her to pass. It didn’t feel like I was in the United States anymore.
Lady Boggs halted, smack in the middle of the Bourbon Street ruckus, and placed her key into a large and unassuming dark grey door. As we followed her through what looked like an old stable into a beautifully-lit courtyard garden, the noise and commotion of the street faded away and we were in a different world: We had reached Lady Boggs’ historic New Orleans home.
She gave us a tour and pointed out one of her favorite spots — an upper level glass solarium from where she enjoyed gazing down at her favorite angel sculpture in the garden. I was struck by the abundance of framed photographs everywhere, the artwork, and the colorful textured wallpaper. A powder room concealed behind “disappearing” doors was something out of a storybook. I just loved reading this story about the family who purchased Lady Bogg’s home a couple of years ago — the description of the house brought me right back.
But what I remember more than the gorgeousness of that home on Bourbon Street or the charm and grit of New Orleans that night was the Lady herself. Lindy Boggs had that southern graciousness and hospitality, a sparkle in her eye, a refined grace. Whether you were a bouncer at a strip club, a congressman, or a visitor she’d never see again, she paid attention. She had class. It seemed to me she was American royalty at its best. Rest in peace, Lady Boggs.
Image: Lindy Boggs from the Wall Street Journal public resource images