Cokie Boggs Roberts ’64 died on Sept. 17 in Washington, D.C. Those who know her will not be surprised to hear that until her very last days she was charging ahead, making plans and airline reservations, preparing to participate in ABC News coverage of the Democratic presidential candidate debate. A tremendous flood of tributes and tweets, obituaries and memorials, has poured out since her death, including from Barack and Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama said Cokie was “a role model to young women at a time when the profession was still dominated by men.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who delivered a eulogy at Cokie’s funeral, said that “God truly blessed America with Cokie’s life and legacy.” A trailblazer, Pelosi said on Twitter. President Trump spoke about Cokie on Air Force One: “I never liked her.”
Cokie was the child of two political superstars. Her father was Rep. Hale Boggs of Louisiana; when he died in a plane crash, he was House majority leader. Her mother, Lindy Boggs, ran for his seat and became a powerful leader herself on, among many other things, women’s concerns. Lindy was an influential mentor to Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the House. Pelosi quotes her frequently: “Darlin’, know your power.”
In 1966, Cokie married Steven V. Roberts, then a young reporter at the New York Times. They met when she was at Wellesley and he at Harvard. They had two children, Lee and Rebecca, and six grandchildren. Cokie and Steve had just returned from Greece for him to take up an assignment in Washington when he heard of a new network called National Public Radio. Steve tracked down a friend who said that Cokie ought to talk to NPR. She did and got a job covering Congress and politics, essentially the same job I had. I was a bit concerned when I understood how much she knew and apparently had known from childhood about the underpinnings of politics, but I got over it, and we became close friends and colleagues (a woman thing?).
Years later, she left NPR for ABC News, where she continued to report on Congress and politics. She never quite left NPR, though, keeping her hand in with commentaries and features on Morning Edition. In her spare time, she began writing books about the history of American women in politics.
And always over the years, whatever she was doing, she drew her family and friends close. We had Christmas and Passover at her home on Bradley Boulevard—a tradition for me and many others, so changed now. And Cokie always knew what I needed. I was in the hospital for surgery, terrified of cancer, missing my late mother. I woke up, and Lindy Boggs was holding my hand telling me that I was fine. Cokie always knew.
We miss her very much.
Linda Cozby Wertheimer ’65 is the former host of NPR’s All Things Considered.